Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Origami House turns over a new leaf for design

Unique design: The 'Origami House' in Kells
Unique design: The 'Origami House' in Kells

If you've ever been house-hunting, one property you quickly learned to avoid was anything described as "architect-designed". It should be in the thesaurus under "ugly". It's a conundrum of the modern age: how a dedicated profession came to systematically strip its own aesthetic work of any detail or interest.

You want bland, grey walls made of hideous materials? Get an architect in. You want a box, with no flourish to gladden the eye? Ditto.

It isn't reactionary to feel such things, just because you share an outlook with Prince 'Carbuncle' Charles.

It's disingenuous to pretend you're intelligent and moderne, darling, by liking this horrible stuff. Besides, it's had time to bed in now, having kicked off in the Sixties. And still we hate it.

We haven't caught up with the brainy people and started to like it. That's because it is, objectively speaking, awful. It's an assault on the aesthetic spirit.

Thankfully there are signs that things are changing – though mostly in public buildings – with extravagant use of colour, lighting, curves and space age tropes.

Titanic Belfast springs to mind, with its shape cleverly matching its subject. Belfast, indeed, was once known as "the art deco capital of Ireland". You can see why in the former Bank of Ireland building on the corner of Royal Avenue and North Street, in the splendid old Sinclair's store nearby, in the Burton Buildings and the Woolworth Buildings (now Dunnes).

Across the UK in recent years the new human-friendly creativity in public buildings hasn't been quite so evident in domestic architecture.

However, hope is on the way ... with the likes of the Origami House. Don't panic, it isn't made of paper.

But it has a distinctly folded look, and this quietly creative corner of Kells, Co Antrim, is set to feature on a US TV show with a global audience of 80 million.

A film crew from Londonshire will spend two days shooting footage for Extreme Homes, which in the past has featured a $30m "mega home" in Las Vegas and a Miami penthouse complete with helipad.

Architect Jane Burnside's Kells home was built, by contrast, "to look like a clachan of cottages in the green landscape", as she puts it.

All glass on one side, it appears to connect directly with the countryside.

Well, yay for that. I feel the tide is turning. Perhaps even, one day, the term "architect-designed" might denote a house that doesn't torture the eyeball.

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