Rathgar Mews - modernist 2 storeys over basement


The site of the mews house occupies approximately half of the rear garden of a protected Victorian red brick house on Rathgar Road, accessed down a narrow mews lane. Despite the site being 7m × 26m long, we have been able to accommodate a front courtyard that can take a car, a back garden and 192sqm of accommodation (including 3 bedrooms) in this two storeys-over-basement house.

We were influenced by the functionalist language of early Modernism as shown in the `Baba´ housing of Brno or Stuttgart’s `Weissenhofsiedlung´. The design features strip fenestration, simple geometries, flat roofs and the simple colour scheme of that period. This language seemed to particularly suit the constraints of Planning and site.

Due to borrowed views and light available across gardens to the south and due to adjoining artist’s studio (which receives north light across the clients’ site) we eschewed the usual language of the mews house and built tight along the north boundary borrowing light and views from the east, south and west. Where the building fills the width of the site (i.e. at the livingroom) windows cannot open to the south, instead two roof lanterns capture southern light and large windows open to the east and west.

The whole ground floor is occupied by car, entrance and bedrooms and ancillary, so a `den´ (lit by large paving light) and utility and store located in the basement, and the kitchen and open plan living-dining room occupy the first floor. As a spatial economy the rear garden is accessed at ground level through the visitors’ bedroom on the ground floor. At first floor the banquette seating in the kitchen pushes out over the courtyard below: it is oriented to the lane beyond. A pier subtly divides the living and dining functions of the open plan space. Near it a small terrace and external spiral staircase give access to the rear garden.

Large windows oriented to south, east and west, rooflights, roof lanterns, a pavinglight and even a floorlight all provide a good and often dramatic natural light within the house. This reduces the artificial lighting load and improves solar gain. A windowless north elevation helps reduce heat loss on that side while airtightness detailing, full-fill cavity walls with bonded blown-bead insulation and large amounts of roof and floor insulation ensure good thermal performance.

The whole house heat recovery system is a Mitsubishi `Lossnay´ fitted by Nutech Renewables. The livingroom fireplace, traditionally the source of much heat loss in Irish houses, has a sliding glazed door (to reduce heat loss and increase fuel efficiency) and separated combustion air supply: the `Phenix 1000´ form Hearth and Homes was specified.

50cm3 of concrete with cement content of 70% GGBS mix were used in the floor slab and basement resulting in the offsetting 11.5 tonnes of carbon, equivalent to taking three cars off the road for a year. The house is estimated to have a B1 energy rating.