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Inside Out

06.10.20

Designing from a unique perspective, Dublin-based architect Fergus Flanagan outlines why he has turned modern architectural practices on their head

I never know what a building will look like at the outset. I start with a blank sheet every time - this way I never rule out innovation. We don’t design houses; we create homes and these are some of the most difficult buildings to get right. A home should be conceived around two main drivers - the site and the people who live in it.

It doesn’t matter how good an Architect you are, you can’t alter where the sun rises and sets. This is one of the most important ingredients to take into account. Design a home to follow the path of the sun and you will enjoy the beauty of the natural light.

Sometimes we want to take in views of the countryside, the sea, a mountain or even a beautiful city vista. On occasion, we need to screen off less attractive outlooks, or gain privacy and there are times when we don’t even have a view - this is where we have to create one, such as a feature courtyard or a lake.

A home and a garden are not two separate elements, they’re symbiotic - each relies upon and affects the other. A home can be part garden/part home. It’s important to not only pull the garden into the house, but to pull the house into the garden. This can be as simple as strategically locating a sculptured tree in the garden and adorning it with lights, so you see them the minute you walk in through your front door. The tree becomes part of family celebrations, with baubles added for Christmas, or balloons for a family Birthday.

However, there’s little point in creating a beautiful garden if you can’t sit in it. I lived in a German wine making region for over 12 years, enjoying the blue skies and balmy temperatures. When I returned to Ireland, I was acutely aware of the cool, rainy days in mid-summer and how this pretty much translated to an entire population staying indoors.

So, we started to design every home with a covered terrace to address the rain. Then we created double sided fireplaces, so you had a fire on the inside of your home and one on the outside. We used walls with simple plaster that turned into an outdoor cinema feature and water off the roof to create a flowing river and feature lake. Ironically, this was the cheapest part of the build process and all of my clients say the covered terrace areas are the most used space in their homes.

I have designed homes for clients in their 20s through to their 70s. The most important aspect is to take their mind out of immediate reality into future possibilities. With a younger clientele, the initial premise of planning ahead to accommodate space for a growing family through to not having to leave their cherished home they love because it has been designed for the short term.

The more of a client’s personality you can put into their house, the more they feel they have ownership of the design and the more of a true Home it becomes.

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