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Winkens Architecture
Whitestown, Drinagh
Wexford, Ireland
t. +353(0)53 9126605
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good living through design

This article was written for the Irish Market and was published in an Irish newspaper

Architecture is a part of our everyday lives. It influences us in a great way. The homes we live, sleep and work in, the shops, factories and schools we walk through, all contribute to the way we feel and conduct our day. If therefore, you are in a position to create your own immediate environment - building you own home - then this should be done with thought. Ask yourself, what are the things you like or dislike most about your current home? Or what features may have caught your eye in another house? These are points and wishes that an architect can help to incorporate into the design of your new home.
Size is, of course, determined by cost, but still a good design can be achieved. No matter what size dwelling your budget dictates, with thought an architect can create a real home. The small householder can escape the 'closed in' feeling by way of the 'glass wall' and the open plan luxuries denied to his ancestors. Large sheets of glass are a comparatively recent invention, and the open plan became feasible only with the introduction of central heating. Drafts from the main entrance can be avoided by a small lobby.
The main rooms of the dwelling could face south with great sheets of fixed glass. With glass walls one eliminates draught problems associated with windows. Cross ventilation is important though an should not be neglected. An air change, even on cold days is very important to keep dampness at bay. Burning a pint of bottled gas for example, produces a pint of water vapour. Heat recovery systems ventilate with minimal heatloss. Wide roof-overhangs shade the interior in summer when the sun takes a high curve over the sky, but allows the light to penetrate deep into the rooms in winter when warmth is welcome. Heat loss is minimised by using hi performance double glazing and by drawing curtains at night.
Of course, good insulation is the key to a warm and fuel-efficient building. Floor, walls and roof all need to be insulated. Draughty windows and doors can loose more heat than through the glass itself. These modern 'passive solar homes' have proven to be extraordinarily comfortable and economical, even in our Irish climate. Especially in Co. Wexford which has the most sun hours in Ireland. On sunny winter days the heat can be turned off completely, and appreciable sun-heat radiates into the house even on cloudy days.
People who haven't actually visited houses of this type usually have a premonition of glare, very unfounded in fact. Glare is largely a matter of excessive contrast, like a torch in a dark room or through a small window in a dark wall. The ample even light of well designed modern interiors had just the opposite effect. It makes a big difference if you are in a room with plenty of natural light, to a room with small windows and artificial light.
Many houses built today are trying to copy the past, Georgian and Tudor styles are still favourites, but by putting columns left and right of the entrance door, and sectioning windows in small partitions one doesn't make a Georgian house. Just as four doors on a car do not make a luxury car. More thought ought to be given to create a true great feeling with today's comforts and possibilities.
In conclusion, it is my opinion that it is fine to preserve the past, the castles, the churches, great homes and other historic buildings. But why try to recreate it? Can't we advance? What are we leaving for future generations to preserve? I think the times has come for Ireland to move into the 21st century. I would like to see a more modern housing developing in our so very unique landscape throughout this beautiful isle.

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