James McKevitt discusses this project
McKevitt King are an architectural practice with an exciting future ahead due to the company directors James McKevitt and Adrian King having rather unique designs and ideas when it comes to new builds, renovation projects and extensions.
Such a project is this beautifully breathtaking property in Summerhill, County Meath that was completed last June. Both James McKevitt and Adrian King were the Architects over this project.
The site is situated in a rural setting to the north east of Summerhill in the townland of Collegeland. A mature landscape of indigenous trees and hedgerows surround the site. The site is bounded by an esker to the north and east of the site. This topographical feature and the mature trees gives the site its specific character.
“We do a lotof work in the Northeast, particualarly in rural areas. The client approached us because of our design capability and also having great experience of working with the relevant Local Authority, explained James McKevitt.
“The couple work in the property sector so they both had a good idea of what they wanted to do when it came to their house. The clients got along well with Adrian King and I when they met us and they felt that we could deliver a house that responded well to the site and brief and that is the house they got,” added Mr McKevitt.
The dwelling is located in the cradle of the site, nestling between the esker and the trees. The design is based on the reinterpretation of the vernacular style – enclosures created by the arrangement of outbuildings around dwellings, sheds and stables are evident throughout the Irish countryside and create interesting vernacular clusters.
The dwelling integrates entrance forecourts, courtyards and walled gardens into the design. The idea of creating different courtyards creates a sense of enclosure that will provide a certain degree of privacy while at the same time create thresholds between the public and private parts of the site.
“The house intergrates well with the landscape and they have decided to leave the garden as a meadow as they want wild flowers to grow around the house.
“They wanted to keep a rural approach to the house as well. The house is predominantly clad in stained cedar which is a nod towards the mature trees that surround the house.The materials throughout the house are of a traditional palate; natural slate, cedar cladding, white sand plaster, stone paving, etc,” enthused James.
“We also had a fantastic contractor working on the project with us he worked on the project with us from beginning to end and he took a great interest in this house. There was a great team effort on this job,” he revealed.
The dwelling is single storey in scale and consists of three pitched wings with simple spans, which are laid out to respond to the specific conditions present on site, in particular the views to the fields, the trees, the esker and the solar orientation.
The form and massing of the dwelling has been designed to integrate with the rural setting in a positive way. The forms adopted have been inspired by the existing agricultural buildings in the area with the vernacular profiles of pitched and flat roofs replicated in the proposed new dwelling. The scale and massing of the new blocks has derived from the dimensions of the existing buildings in the area and are in keeping with this scale. The three different wings have been individually expressed by separating the main forms with flat roof sections.
By replicating the pitched roof over the three main wings a sense of coherency and unity is achieved. The arrangement of the wings create a series of a courtyards which are appropriate to the landscape and context.
“The brief was very specific in terms of what each room had to achieve in terms of light and views so that helped influence the extensive layout and the footprint of the house,” said James.
The deliberate shape and positioning of the different wings and walls creates a series of interesting external spaces around the dwelling including an entrance forecourt, a walled garden to the west, a rear garden and a family courtyard to the east/south.
The living areas have been strategically located and designed to benefit from the southern and western aspect.
The main living area (kitchen/dining/living) opens onto a south and west facing courtyard in order to benefit from the solar gains during winter and summer seasons. The bedroom accommodation is set back below an external covered area, the structure of which is expressed like a colonnade around a courtyard.
“There is a lovely transition when you come to the kitchen/ dining area and you move from there to the living room and that is connected with a beautiful set of hardwood folding doors. You then go from that living space to a snug so you are transitioning from a big, bright space to a slightly more intimate space,” enthused Mr McKevitt.
Work commenced on site in September 2017 and it was finished in June 2018. In terms of whether or not there were any problems encountered throughout the nine month.
“There weren’t any problems encountered on the build because we had a great contractor working on the house with us and he was heavily invested in the build. The windows had to come from Denmark but that was factored into the programme,” imparted James.
As to the efficiency of the house? “It’s got an energy rating of A2 and there is a heat pump in the house and there are pv panels on the roof as well. The home owners use very little heat because of the solar gain and the house is also very well insulated,” added James.
“There is also a demand controlled ventilation system in the house. It’s a combination of vents and a heat recovery system. As clients go they were very informed and they put a lot time into everything and they took huge interest in the fine details,” revealed Mr Kevitt.
Although working with vernacular shapes & materials, the design is fresh. All of the materials are traditional in their nature. Walls are predominantly timber with a dark stain to reflect the landscape in which the dwelling sits and respects the character of the site. The roofs are crafted from metal/natural blue/black slates. Eaves details are clipped and minimal. The extensive use of timber cladding helps to integrate the dwelling into its woodland setting.
As to James’ closing comments on this project… “I really enjoyed working on this house because it was a fantastic design and we also worked with very open minded and enlightened clients. We had a great builder as well and when you are fortunate enough to have all of those things you get a great product at the end.
“The house is beautiful and the clients have ended up with something rather special,” concluded James McKevitt.