design + energy + excellence

Category: Conservation (Page 1 of 4)

Extension to Stone Cottage Over 180 Years Old

Shaolin cottage is a gem hidden near New Ross, County Wexford. The existing house retains the original character enhanced by the labor of love of its owners. The cottage is surrounded by mature trees in an extremely private setting. The owners’ brief included additional accomodation and a proper kitchen and bathroom. Attention to Feng Shui principles was also one of the initial requirements.

The basis of Feng Shui is that energy (chi) flows from one entity to another.The chi energy you take in from your environment influences your needs, emotions, physical energy and, over time, your health, Chi energy is carried through the environment by wind, water, the sun’s solar energy, light and sound. It flows in and out of buildings mainly through the doors and windows. The basic aim of Feng Shui is to enable you to position yourself where this natural flow of chi energy helps you to realise your goals and your dreams in life.

Everything in the world can be seen in terms of two kinds of energy: passive and active, or yin and yang, which is one of the fundamental principles of Feng Shui.

The Five Element Cycle


The Five Elements – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water – are one of the special tools Feng Shui uses.

From the very start our design aimed to keep the chi energy flowing gently throughout the house. This influenced the overall layout, the location of the windows and the orientation of the rooms. Symmetry was also an important concept used to achieve balance and harmony.



The curved shape was designed to complement and interconnect with the existing rectangular shape (cottage) with a view to achieve a yin-yang relationship. Yin and yang are complementary and integrated with each other. Both are mutually indispensable and feed each other while at the same time they cannot be separated.



We always felt the character of the existing stone cottage was there to be respected and we did not want the new design to compete with the old.

However, the required floor area was more than the existing area. This imposed the challenge of creating a new volume that would not dominate the site. We feel the new design, by its simplicity and contrasting volume, achieves the required balance and retains the old house as the main focal point.

The selection of the materials also followed the yin-yang principle by re-using in the new curved element the existing stone that matches the original house. The ‘five elements’ principle was also completed by introducing the element metal – zinc cladding – in the new extension.


See more animations here.

Do you have a similar project? Talk to us today!


How Many Churches Are Falling Down?

Churches in Ireland retain a considerable significance, they are often the most prominent buildings in their locality and possess architectural, historical and social significance.

Many churches have become neglected or abandoned. And many have suffered from incorrect repairs that were done most of the times with the best of intentions.

How many churches are falling down we don’t know but we know what can be done to avoid further damage:

  • Do use experts. When it comes to repairing a church building getting the right advice is very important. Churches can be amongst the most complex of historic building types and the nature of their conservation often requires specialist advice. It is a false economy not to get proper advice before carrying out work. Bad repair works can be difficult and expensive to undo and can damage a building in the long-term.
  • Do repair the parts of the building that need it. Remember, an aim of good conservation works is to do as much as necessary, yet as little as possible.
  • Do make sure appropriate materials and repair techniques are used.
  • Do make sure all interventions are reversible and where appropriate visually identifiable.
  • Do identify and understand the reason for failure before undertaking repairs.
  • Don’t over do it. Remember, minimal intervention should be the aim.
  • Do engage tradespeople with skills in traditional building methods or experienced conservation professionals.


The primary aim of conservation is to prolong the life of something of value. Churches provide unique evidence of our past, they are witnesses to centuries of worship, architectural skill and community history. Let’s do what we can to avoid seeing churches falling down.

Isabel Barros is a RIAI registered Architect accredited in Conservation at Grade 3, please contact us today if you need assistance with your Church project. We can also help in the procurement of grant funding to assist with repair and/or maintenance works.


Recommended reading: Old Buildings: Why Things Go Wrong


Re-Use and Re-Adaptation of Churches – 3 Irish Examples


These Irish examples offer a positive approach for re-imagining historic buildings while following best conservation practices.

Introducing change into the historic built environment requires sensitivity and high standards of design. Often it is necessary to find an appropriate use in order to prevent a building’s decay or destruction, this being one of the hardest problems to solve in the practice of architectural conservation.

The creative challenge is to find appropriate ways to satisfy the requirements of a structure to be safe, durable and useful on the one hand, and to retain its character and special interest on the other.

Rehabilitation has social, cultural and economic advantages. Social, in that people and towns keep their identity; cultural, in that artistic, architectural, archaeological and documentary values can be preserved both for their intrinsic value and their contribution to the identity of the town; economic, in that (a) existing capital is used, (b) energy is saved, (c) demolition costs are avoided, and (d) the existing infrastructure of roads and services is utilized. (B. Feilden, 2003)


The following are good examples of adaptive reuse in Ireland.


St. Mary’s Abbey, Kilkenny

Conversion to Museum – McCullough Mulvin Architects



St. Luke’s Church, Dublin

Conversion to Offices (on site Oct. 2017) – DTA Architects & Carrig Conservation Consultants

Existing Section

Proposed Section





St. Jame’s Church, Dublin / Pearse Lyons Distillery

Conversion to Distillery – TOTP Architects & Carrig Conservation Consultants








« Older posts