Plus Architecture scooped two major awards at the 2018 Irish Construction Industry Awards. Founding director Gavin Wheatley was named as Designer of the Year while the inimitable design-led studio also came up trumps in the Small Residential Project of the Year category for its innovative work on House on Burrow Beach. Building Ireland caught up with Gavin to find out more.
Plus Architecture’s status as leaders in their chosen field of expertise was underlined at this year’s prestigious Irish Construction Industry Awards in Dublin’s CityWest Hotel on Thursday night, June 14th when the vibrant young architectural studio – which was established by UCD graduates Des Twomey, Gavin Wheatley and Cyril O’Neill in 2011 – collected two major accolades.
While director Gavin Wheatley took home the Designer of the Year award, House on Burrow Beach was chosen by the discerning judges as the outstanding Small Residential Project of the Year. Meanwhile, two other Plus Architecture projects – Whelehan’s Wines and Swan Centre, Rathmines – were nominated in the Retail Project of the Year category.
“It was a great achievement to be nominated and we were delighted to take home two awards,” Gavin told Building Ireland shortly after the black tie gala awards ceremony. “Obviously, our studio is all about providing quality service to our clients first and foremost. Recognition and awards are the icing on the cake but that’s not why we do the job.
“We are extremely proud that our clients were happy with the work we did on all of these projects and also that we brought them in on time and within budget. The clients are really happy with the end results and the commercial projects have proven to be very successful. We strive to provide high-quality solutions and to deliver cost-effective design on all of our projects and we are confident that we consistently achieve these objectives.”
Delivering creative, workable and cost-effective solutions, Plus Architecture manage projects to achieve optimum architectural quality, efficient use of resources and best value. They are keenly aware of the importance of dialogue with the people who commission the buildings and leave no stone unturned in ensuring that delivery of a project aligns with the delivery of expectations.
Of the belief that their best projects have been undertaken with continuity of thought within the design process, the practice commits itself fully to any project undertaken, for the benefit of the project and of clients.
Plus Architecture is a company that brings specialist knowledge, experience and expertise to every project; the founding directors boasting more than half a century of combined industry experience of design and construction management gained in Irish, UK, European and Middle Eastern markets.
The stunning House at Burrow Beach in Sutton, County Dublin comprised refurbishing and extending a derelict, protected structure to provide a modern family house with aspect out over the dunes of Burrow Beach. This existing late-Victorian villa, a protected structure, has been remodelled and extended to take advantage of the magnificent views out over Dublin Bay and Ireland’s Eye.
The form of the new-build element is inspired by the shifting landscape of sand dunes on the beach, with mono-pitch roofs sloping up to envelope the accommodation, and roof lights popping up to bring south light in to a mainly north-facing living area. These new additions wrap around the existing house and contrast with it both materially and spatially.
On entry into the house, a double-height space has been introduced to create a sense of spatial drama, missing in the original house. This reception space leads directly into the open-plan living space to the rear with the large framed views out to the sea. Due to council flood-risk requirements, the new-build elements of the house were required to be raised a metre above the ground floor level of the existing house, which had the positive effect of allowing greater field of view over the seascape.
The basic concept of the plan was to locate the main living spaces to the rear of the house, with kitchen and dining rooms positioned to take advantage of morning light from the east and the sitting room enjoying the evening sun. The extension has been pulled away from the north elevation of the existing house to create a light-filled double-height void space between the old and new, allowing the elements of the house to be read together.
The Siberian larch cladding, black metal detailing, bronze anodised aluminium windows and large format glazing also contrast with the lime render and slate roof of the existing house.
“We don’t do a lot of residential projects but, when we do, we put a great deal of time into it and we were very proud of that one,” Gavin notes. “We do a lot of larger-scale multi-unit apartment blocks and also try to have one or two one-offs on the go at any given time.”
This helps keep the creative juices flowing as, by its very nature, commercial work can be more straightforward.
“You are always aiming to be as creative as possible but we don’t lose the run of ourselves with spectacular bespoke details as you need to have a budget to match. You are generally restricted by the budget and have to make practical decisions about how to deliver what the client wants.
“Every job is different and each comes with restrictions and constraints, which makes the work more challenging, interesting and exciting,” the Designer of the Year states.
Some other projects carried out recently by Plus Architecture include a 500,000 sq.ft. mixed-use development at No.1 Ballsbridge comprising office space, retail space and luxury apartments with views of Dublin bay; a room at Crumlin Children’s Hospital that serves as a fun, happy place to help both the children and their families momentarily forget about their everyday struggle against cancer; and a number of fit-out projects including the ground floor of Block B within the Sweepstakes Centre, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 to provide office accommodation including shared cafeteria and meeting spaces for Coca-Cola & innocent.
For Whelehan’s Wines, the brief was to take the existing old Silver Tassie pub and refurbish it to create a new destination wine shop and cafe. The existing building was built over a long period of time with the oldest sections in very poor condition, both structurally and from a services point of view.
Plus Architecture proposed a scheme to open up the entire ground floor plan and remove the various bars, lounges and snugs to create a modern retail environment. The newer part of the building opening onto the carpark has been fully re-modelled also to provide a cafe which opens out onto a sunny terrace.
While they completely refurbished the building, they did re-use a number of architectural elements from the previous fit-out to maintain some semblance of continuity within the life of the building such as the hardwood bar and a lot of the furniture. These elements were re-decorated and successfully incorporated into the modern space.
At Swan Centre, Rathmines, for Omniplex Holdings, Plus Architecture successfully brought a new commercial frontage on to a previously underused side of the shopping centre with a food anchor, café terrace and kiosk shops.
The Swan Centre didn’t previously engage with its southern elevation on to Castlewood Avenue. Their proposal was to create a new commercial elevation complete with café terrace, new kiosk shops and a higher profile entrance to the centre. By re-designing the internal layout of the shops and creating one large food anchor shop, they sought to balance the retail offering within the centre. The previously underused surface carpark presented an underwhelming elevation to the centre and by infilling this space with new shops, they have sought to improve both the retail environment and the public realm.
A dramatic double-height space forms the entrance to a new destination food shop and restaurant, and a vertical rhythm of light posts carries a canopy to form a porous interface between the recessed dining space and the enhanced public realm of the street. The south-facing terrace for the cafe is sunken below the level of the footpath and surrounded by planting to give it a sheltered and sunny aspect.
Access to existing apartments is maintained at both ends of the new intervention to further increase the permeability of the overall scheme.
Fronted by a dedicated, motivated team of 18 fully-qualified personnel, Plus Architecture are very busy at present, with major projects currently ongoing in Cabra and North London to mention just a couple. They are at just the right size to tackle both small and large projects.
“There’s a mini boom in construction at the moment and we’ve had the conversation about managing sustainable growth,” says Gavin. “We really enjoy the scale of the practice now and the possibilities this presents, allowing us to undertake large-scale commercial work but still being small enough to allow each director to maintain a direct involvement in the design process.”
What is the key to Plus Architecture’s resounding success? “Between us, the three directors have almost 60 years’ experience and one of us is directly involved in every project. Each project is different and we approach each of them with a fresh outlook, taking everything into consideration from commercial, architectural, legislative and design perspectives.
“We tend to get the client involved and engaged and we make sure to get their expectations embedded in the project,” the 2018 Irish Construction Industry Designer of the Year concludes. “We benefit from a large volume of repeat business, which shows the loyalty and faith they have in us.
“We also have a very low turnover of staff, which suggests that people enjoy working for us and that continuity of staff is vital in consistently delivering high-quality solutions to our clients.”
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Taken from Building Ireland Magazine, August 2018, Vol 4 No 7