Lucan - writer’s hemp-lime retreat

  • Aalto_Villa Mairea
  • woven arch of living willow


The elegant structurally-expressive simple structures of the `Centre for Alternative Technology´ in Central Wales, Aalto's Villa Mairea, traditional Japanese courtyard structures and willow living sculptures were all influences in this low-budget, environmental project.     

The accommodation schedule is for (1) a writer’s studio to rear, (2) a glazed canopy and deck to allow the house to extend into the garden in summer without decreasing internal lighting levels, (3) a garden/bin store, (4) a small utility room and (5) a tiny gym with shower and good ventilation! 

The studio pushes into the garden and relates closely to existing plants and views beyond. Items 3, 4 and 5 (listed above) are grouped into one long block pushed against the side of the house (without blocking off the side passage). The glazed canopy which runs along the back of the house ties together the elevated walkway to the studio and the side block. In between these a slightly sunken `zen´ garden forms a central focus, before terraces step back up to the level of the lawn beyond.      

The shape of the studio and the pitch of its roof are designed to have minimal effect on low evening light reaching the deck and house. 

A key goal of the project is to use as many carbon neutral and carbon sequestering materials as possible, and to source all in Ireland. Therefore Irish hardwoods are specified for the exposed structure, good softwoods for the timber frame buried in the walls and carefully selected larch is specified for the roof and floors. The walls of the side block and the studio will be cast in Irish-sourced hemp-lime biocomposite. 

In this way these walls, floors and roof can offset the carbon cost of other elements of the specification such as tiles and glazing.