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 structureimage © 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 structureimage © 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 hayloftimage © 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 workshopimage © brian cregan



laying the foundation with salvaged steel beamsimage © cowshed collective



timber supports where set thereafterimage © cowshed collective



salvaged brick was used for the walls image © henrietta williams



participants worked on site along with local buildersimage © brian cregan



bricklaying for the milk parlorimage © 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 festivitiesimage © henrietta williams




floor plan level 0 and 1



section image © henrietta







project info:


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

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
    all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


    a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

    architecture news

    keep up with our daily and weekly stories
    492,670 subscribers
    - see sample
    - see sample