Modular Housing Design for Rural Ireland

2021 / Interior

Niamh Connolly


Modular Housing Design for Rural Ireland

Hi, my name is Niamh Connolly. I have been studying interior and furniture design at the Technological University of Dublin for five years. My work experience so far has mainly consisted of workshop roles and manufacturing. In 2019, my long-term partner and I built a 35sqm home. Steel frame, timber sheet, and a selection of waste building materials from site. Realising that I had several skills and knowledge in this area, I decided to partake in the master's program, to focus on alternative housing solutions to address the housing crisis in Ireland.

Growing up, I worked and went to school in Dublin, yet lived in Wexford - kayaking, surfing, fishing. Moving our entire lives down to Wexford was never an option, as the location was too remote. No schools, scarce employment. Now- things are very different. Education can be experienced from home, and food shopping can be done online. The positive impact from Covid 19 has opened up the possibility of living and working anywhere in Ireland.

If you can work from home, then you can work from anywhere.

1. We need change in the housing system;

The project focused on creating a system where a single or couple can buy into, with the potential to expand and provide a multigenerational living space later on if required. The idea is to combat the ‘starter home’ apartment, that many people find themselves stuck in. By providing a small affordable plot, that can evolve as space is required. In later life, when the house feels ‘too big’ when children move, this home can revert to the original apartment.

2. The standard 3 bed 2 bath is non reflective to living situations in Ireland.

The average price of a home in Dublin, 3 bedrooms 2 bathrooms is 417k. 2016 Census has revealed that 10% of adult children are living at home, the young generation has been forced out of homeownership. This research led the design, to create a modular home that would enable families to cohabit.
The single pod consists of two ground floor bedrooms, a living, dining, and kitchen area upstairs. The duplicate pod consists of a kitchen and dining space and a large living room. Then four bedrooms upstairs and a family bathroom. In later stages of life with the duplicate pod, the ground-floor living room can then become a studio space for the next generation. This could provide independent living for elderly grandparents or adult children!

3. Exploring vernacular and identity in the Irish rural landscape

The abundance of agricultural sheds in Oldtown sparked the idea of contemporizing the shed, as a form that would spark familiarity amongst the Irish rural landscape. This exploration of identity followed Eric Hobsbawm's theory invented traditions in relation to stone walls. Hobsbawm categorizes tradition into segments, The ‘custom’, when an object is used to demonstrate a visual representation of the tradition. The tradition here - could be considered as farming and the fields. The agricultural shed is a ‘symbolic’ representation. However, the aesthetic becomes functional as it links to the continuity of the traditional object, the rural Irish countryside, and national heritage.

4. Sustainably regenerating rural communities

Oldtown is a small village on the Dublin/Meath border. The area is filled with traditional Irish culture, with symbols of traditional handmade walls. It has one church, one pub, and a national primary school. The community is central to the Wild Geese GAA and local employment is primarily agricultural. A master plan was purposed for the regeneration of Oldtown in 2018 for 98 houses, but the rejection led to disappointment amongst residents, particularly the adult children who hoped to stay local to their community. In a move towards sustainability, Duncan Stewart encourages regenerating rural communities by adding a few houses to the village within walking distance to reduce car dependency.

One housing model will not suit all, but what if one house could adapt to many.


Flexuous Forms

Manvi Pande /

2021 / Interior