the cowshed collective brings sustainability to social farming
the cowshed collective brings sustainability to social farming the cowshed collective brings sustainability to social farming
feb 09, 2013
the cowshed collective brings sustainability to social farming

cowshed by the cowshed collective, callan, county kilkenny, ireland

image © henrietta williams
all images courtesy of commonage and the cowshed collective




among the greenery of callan, a small town in ireland, a group of recent university college of dublin graduates are creating an architecture that responds to
the ordinary in a rich and compelling way. dubbed the cowshed collective, the group works under the premise that brilliant resourcefulness,
architectural honesty and critical design thinking can expand a building’s everyday performance. these ideas have been underwritten by an equally
enterprising entity, commonage. named after the irish notion that land is managed through collective responsibility, the design/research studio has
been commissioning projects that bring together architects, artists, social geographers and the like to create new frameworks and contexts for
creative practice in ireland. the cowshed was built as part of a 17 day design/build workshop for commonage summer school, itself an intensely collaborative
process that had participants from a wide range of backgrounds working alongside local tradesman and builders as well as sharing meals and listening to
public talks. the cowshed  is an important impetus for a long term project seeking to design and build structures at the camphill callan community farm,
a social farming program that supports a work environment for people with disabilities.  



the shed in context and its relationship to the existing structure
image © cowshed collective




the program brief called for a small milking parlor, room for a cow and her calves and a hayloft. the response was an ambitious design that set to
additionally create infrastructure on the farm. not only would the enclosure provide that farm with a yard,  two single pitched roofs would capture and
channel rainwater for both the cattle and the yard. the unique program and team made for the architecture be be almost entirely process driven and
unabashedly site-specific. the construction process facilitated participant’s learning and became the driving force of the design. the site itself provided a
selection of salvaged materials; red brick, ESB poles, galvanized roof sheeting, steel for the foundation,  structural timber and pre-cut plywood panels
from a temporary installation by commonage. while the efficient use of these reclaimed materials makes the cowshed a model of sustainable practice,
the designers also made use of a the staircase in the adjacent shed to grant access to the overhead hayloft, thereby seamlessly weaving together the program
with the existing farm. the timber cladding creates glowing points of interior sunlight that alternately illuminate from within at night. the masonry,
exposed beams and selective color ensure that the cowshed’s rustic beauty can be appreciated far beyond it’s utilitarian function.



selective color, staggered masonry and slotted cladding give the shed a rich range of textures
image © ste murray



a ready client acclimating to the new structure
image © henrietta williams



the hayloft weaves into the existing barn
image © henrietta williams



the slotted wood cladding has a remarkable dappled-light effect 
image © ste murray



(left): first floor interior
(right): interior view of the hayloft
image © ste murray



(left): the cowshed lit from within at night
(right): the dappled and skylight change throughout the day
image © ste murray



nighttime view
image © cowshed collective



commonage summer school participants attend public lectures and share meals as part of the design/build workshop
image © brian cregan 



laying the foundation with salvaged steel beams
image © cowshed collective



timber supports where set thereafter
image © cowshed collective



salvaged brick was used for the walls
image © henrietta williams



participants worked on site along with local builders
image © brian cregan



bricklaying for the milk parlor
image © henrietta williams



participants and tradesman stockpiled reclaimed materials
image © brian cregan



the design was informed by the building process and modest tools available
image © brian cregan 



roof and wall cladding
image © brian cregan



image © henrietta williams 



the summer school culminated in the ‘cowshed ceili’, a celebration with banjo players on the bridge at dusk and a disco in the hayloft to end the festivities
image © henrietta williams




floor plan level 0 and 1



image © henrietta







project info:


design/build workshops led by: cowshed collective
commissioned by: commonage summer school & camphill callan                                                                         
engineer: kavanagh mansfield                                                                                             
westcourt, callan, co. kilkenny ireland                                                                                                                                      
kilkenny leader partnership & ireland funds

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