WALLPAPER* ARCHITECTS’ DIRECTORY 2019: Dublin-based Thomas O Brien takes architectural history and building plans as a starting point for his designs. He adopts a straightforward approach that places materials and construction visibly at the forefront, expressing honesty and clarity through architecture. Projects include Knockraha (pictured), a trussed extension to a family home in County Cork.

Working with modest materials and everyday sites to impressive effect, Irish architect Thomas O Brien set up his solo practice in Dublin in 2013. A recently completed extension and complete reconfiguration of a rural house in the village of Knockraha in County Cork, neatly embodies his approach and creative flair through its pragmatic yet aesthetically pleasing and inventive solutions. 
‘The extension seeks to modify and correct a problematic suburban-type house, that has been dropped on a rural green field site without any real consideration of its context,’ explains O Brien. ‘The project addresses this problem by reconfiguring the ground floor of the existing house and extending it in length to create a series of enfilade rooms and sheltered outdoor spaces.’

Knockraha house interior - TOB Architect

Working with simple, almost utilitarian materials and overall feel, the architect aimed for a project was feels ‘in keeping with its agrarian context’ – an element that remains very important in the studio’s work. ‘[Context] influences it greatly’, he says. ‘As much as I look to international and historical references, I think all of my projects are greatly referential to the eccentricities of the landscape and vernacular buildings of Ireland.’
The ‘deliberately’ odd roof made out of blue coloured zinc immediately makes the fairly low composition stand out. Interior materials range from simple timber boards, to bright yellow Formica, black fossilised Irish limestone and cork flooring tiles. 

‘My projects reference the eccentricities of the landscape and vernacular buildings of Ireland’ – TOB

The design responds to the brief in an economical way – both in terms of finances and aesthetic humility – yet remains robust and easily legible, making this a comfortable and practical home; in line with further residential work by the studio, such as a farmhouse in Killan and Normal House in Dublin, both of which helped earn him a shortlisting for an Emerging Architecture award in 2018. 
‘I love designing homes for people’, says O Brien. ‘It is a privilege and hugely satisfying when someone places so much trust in you, and you see how happy they are with the final product.’ §

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