Doolin Coastguard Station

Ancient rock big skies wet limestone sea spray howling wind.
The building is a poem offered to the landscape.

The building is used as a highly utilitarian station where the local coastguard team strive to minimize time between emergency alert and boat launch. It has been carefully designed to allow the team to flow through, gear up and set off in the shortest possible time.

The station seeks to be a part of the dramatic landscape, another geological layer applied, mimicking rock formations, reflecting sea and sky, constantly changing in appearance with weather and light, wetting and drying. The other structures present in the area of the scale of this building are all natural rock formations, and in responding to the geological features present in this Karst landscape the building seems natural on the site, as if it belongs.

The building is an object in the tourist landscape and is consumed at a distance by over a million tourists each year who are visiting the nearby Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands.

The composed entrance sequence responds to the gravitas of the buildings function. The crew repeatedly enter the building putting themselves in danger in order to save others, leaving after the mission relieved to be safe. Families have to visit the building on some occasions to identify the dead. You enter from outside into a very low constrained space and then through to a central hall with golden beams lit by zenithal light, a moment of calm enveloped by the functions of the building.

The building sits above the existing rock formations, almost nothing on the site was disturbed save the thin top soil layer and a number of loose boulders. The building is cushioned by a layer of crushed limestone, protecting the underlying rock with the result that in the distant future the building could be removed, the materials salvaged, and the site restored to its previous state. The building uses as little energy to run it as possible. The proposal uses passive solar features in the basic design of the twin skin façade with the result that as much solar gain can be used and the heat trapped within the highly insulated walls and roof while the cooling effect of constant high winds is minimised. All ventilation is natural and heat exchange technology is used to further reduce the heating load.

The building form is broken up to reduce its impact. Instead of being seen as one large object it is seen as a collection of smaller pieces. Each piece is simple in shape and made of one material, just like the rock formations. Two materials are used for the walls. Some of the pieces are made from multi-wall polycarbonate sheeting. This material allows solar gain into the building while simultaneously insulating it. Its appearance has a complexity, sometimes reflecting the sky, sometimes rendered a dull grey akin to the limestone, changing subtly in different lights. The other pieces are finished with a self coloured smooth render. The colour of this render is to match the colour of the limestone.

The original budget for the project was €2.20m, it is being delivered for €1.40m, representing a saving to the client of 37%. Dominic Stevens Architects place great emphasis on the economic delivery of projects, being well known for their €25,000 house project (AAI award winner 2012). Through careful design and a palette of straightforward materials Dominic Stevens Architects along with Dorman Architects have produced an attractive yet extremely economic building.

Dominic Stevens Architects with Dorman Architects

Doolin, Co. Clare



© Ros Kavanagh
© Dominic Stevens