Flexible Communal Courtyard Housing

Site Section Through Units and Courtyard

Front Elevations

Long Site Section and 3D Perspective Views of Spaces

Rear Elevations

Plan View of Site Showing Split Level Floor Layouts

Exploded 3D of House Levels and Rendered 3D Perspective Views

3D Isometric of Site along Laneway

3D Isometric Through Building


Creating flexible housing was the basis of my first semester brief in 4th Year. This required me to design a plot of flexible units which could adapt to the occupants needs over time, whether it be through spatial arrangements internally or external extension. I chose to design capabilities for both.


The area I had chosen to explore was Sunday’s Well on the north side of the River Lee in Cork city. This is a tightly bound community where banks of south facing houses cling to the steep terrain overlooking the city. I investigated the characteristics of its layout, and took interest in the narrow pedestrian pathways which connected various housing terraces off the main roadways. I also mapped the materiality of the area as I walked around, using this information in the future development of my project.

The site I chose ran alongside an old overgrown pathway which linked Blarney Street and Janemount Terrace. I wanted to reinvigorate the path and allow it to provide access to my flexible housing project, which had begun to take shape through my research.

Having studied Herman Hertzberger’s Diagoon Housing in The Netherlands, I was interested in imposing a split-level design on the site, making use of the steep existing terrain. I had also been correlating information on a typology of Cork housing from seven specific developments around the city – which I branded the “Cork Communal Courtyard Housing”. These influences formed the bedrock of my design.


Eleven units, split into three terraces, enclose a planted courtyard green space and the new laneway. Punctuating the open end is a flexible communal building, used by the occupants to wash clothes, arrange meetings or avail of childcare space. The houses themselves contain only two solid cores – the stairwell and the wet rooms (toilets, bathrooms). Other than than, the spaces are left completely free for the owners to arrange and insert partitions if needed. A vertical extension is optional, and can be built on top of the existing balcony, facing south over looking the city.

The whole idea about the design is that it is a shared element – the party walls are thick and contain the service areas of both units – while folding glazing on the facades can open out into the green space. This design promotes interaction between neighbours, something which I think has been somewhat lost due to the Celtic Tiger era.


The buildings are made of natural materials, with cast in situ concrete structural party walls holding up the floorslabs. The cladding is primarily larch timber, chosen so that over time it may weather and turn a silver colour – mimicking the transient nature of families and getting old. Meanwhile, exposed gable walls are clad in the traditional Cork technique of slate hanging, which is prominent in Sunday’s Well and protects the houses from their exposure to prevailing winds and rain.


4th Year; Sunday’s Well, Cork


4th Year; University College Cork