Localization: 16 Henrietta Street, Dublin
Year: 2009
Project Team:  Francesco Colarossi, Luisa Saracino, Paolo Colarossi, Nicola Bartoccelli

Dublin International Competition: SELECTED PROJECT

Henrietta Street is, first and foremost, one of Dublin’s most important historical residential streets and it should go back to being lived as such once again by Dubliners. Most of the formerly-residential buildings now house offices and public administration. Therefore Henrietta Street has, over the years, become a sparsely-inhabited road, especially by night. The insertion in the vacant site at No. 16 of an architecture that aims to house at least 8 family units has the scope of reconsigning Henrietta Street to its inhabitants once more.

From this primary consideration there arises the need to fully exploit the limited dimensions of the site at No. 16, at the same time creating the greatest possible number of living units. The decision to “empty” the ground floor allows for the creation of a common point of access on the facade that faces onto Henrietta Street. Access to the various living units is through stairs and a lift located at the centre of the site: the units facing onto Henrietta Street are studio flats of 34 sqm, while those on the other side of the building are duplex apartments of around 70 sqm. This choice of a functional mixture of small and medium-sized spaces is based on the desire to create a heterogeneous condominium, accessible both for singles and for young couples. On the top floor a duplex of circa 120 sqm conceived as a loft can serve as either residential or office space (atelier/studio, professional office etc.).

The theme proposed by the open ideas design competition raises the sensitive question of the introduction of a modern architecture into an historical context. In addressing this delicate problem we have stopped to consider the meaning of “historical” and of “modern”. As we conceive it, an historical context is the combination of characters, events and mutations that have made a piece of city what we see it today. In the specific case of Henrietta Street the dominant historical period is represented by the  Georgian character of the buildings that face onto the street. But to this there should also be associated the changes that have taken place over the course of the years including the demolition of the original No. 16 and its relative “historical void”. From this second consideration there arises the desire to maintain – in an “ideological” sense – the historically empty space at No. 16. The outline of the blank lateral facade of No. 15 is therefore re-proposed facing onto Henrietta Place. The space between the two slices of building is filled in with a green facade which does not remove the previous void but, on the contrary, emphasizes it, inserting an element – nature – that is foreign to the architecture of Henrietta Street. This artifice produces two results, one conceptual and one technological. The first, as has been said, serves to negate the mass of the new building, re-proposing – ideologically – the pre-existing void.

The second is of important technological value: the Henrietta Street facade is in fact north-facing. As such, in order to achieve low heat-loss it should be almost entirely devoid of apertures. But in so doing the internal illumination of the living units would be drastically limited and at the same time an almost blank facade would be created on the Henrietta Street frontage. To resolve this problem, on the main facade use has been made of a transparent double skin formed on the exterior of fixed glass panels and on the inside of windows that can be opened. This technique allows the creation of a greenhouse effect which renders the north front an excellent barrier against heat loss. Through appropriate apertures the internal temperature of the living units can be regulated. “Sandwiched” between the two glass surfaces, planters are arranged in a fluid and organic design, their job being to contain the “green” element of the facade. Plants and flowers, shielded and protected as in a greenhouse, become the real skin of the building. Rainwater, collected and filtered for this purpose at roof level, is in part used for the plumbing system inside the living units and in part channelled into the planters that contain the vegetation. In this way a secure and continuous provision of water is guaranteed. The flat roof also houses solar panels. Finally the rear facade, which has the advantage of being south-facing, houses terraces and balconies that face onto level +3.00’s terrace/roof-garden. Below this a pocket is created to house a ground-floor parking area for the cars, motorbikes and bicycles of the occupants.