Social Housing in Tallaght’s Unusual Conditions


Profiled Firm: Sean Harrington Architects |  Location: Dublin, Ireland

In Dublin, Ireland, the historic town of Tallaght has in the last few decades been undergoing commercial expansion — what was once a small-town village has transformed into a large suburban scheme with a population well over 100,000, a substantial increase to the 20,000 estimated in the 1980s. Today, there are conversations over whether to consider Tallaght a town or a city. The size certainly suggests city.

A recent housing project by Sean Harrington Architects exemplifies Tallaght’s burgeoning development. The firm’s Shane Byrne reports that their aim, as well as the aim of the client and local authorities, was to create an inviting and appealing facility to serve as a best-practice exemplar for similar developments throughout the county.

The Weir’s story is one of example-setting, intelligent design which accounts for the unusual conditions in Tallaght — conditions which, without a doubt, can complicate design thinking. To the north sits Tallaght Stadium and a densely arranged urban presence and to the south are a low-scale suburbia, a park, and the visage of picturesque Dublin Mountains. The striking disparity between the Weir’s surroundings led Sean Harrington Architects to deeply consider how to develop a housing complex that feels like a natural mediator between these seemingly at-odds conditions.

Designing the Weir

The scheme is arranged around a series of south-facing courtyards, providing open space for the residents to enjoy suburbia despite the bustling north. The stadium’s northern presence provided the architects with a good starting point — they wanted this to be a “strong edge,” Shane said, to minimize exposure for the elderly community. The buildings are set back from this edge to reduce noise disruptions. The southern boundary varies in height and alignment, leading to an open interface with the external park. The northern entrances are defined by a canopy shelter, and each entrance sits close to parking space and dedicated bin storage.

Within the village, the 81 dwellings — which exist in small clusters — are organized along an east-to-west street. The street’s purpose is to foster a larger sense of community while also allowing smaller communities for the residents to identify with. These include a community associated with the front entrance, one around a courtyard garden, one around a stair core, one with a courtyard view, and one along the street.

As a connected whole, these design elements contribute to a high-quality living environment, one that feels natural despite the varying conditions surrounding it.

An Exercise in Collaborative BIM

Sean Harrington Architects looked to BIM to organize the sizable project. They wanted to reduce file sizes and increase the effectiveness of collaboration among their project teams as well as with the client.

Shane describes a BIM model as the “digital description of every aspect of the built asset.” To make use of this digital description, the firm took advantage of Vectorworks’ Project Sharing capabilities, engaging in an open exchange of data through BIM’s common denominator, IFC.

We recognize the potential of BIM to optimize the delivery of our design services, improving outcomes and realizing added value for our clients.


Shane Byrne, Sean Harrington Architects

“We recognize the potential of BIM to optimize the delivery of our design services, improving outcomes and realizing added value for our clients,” Byrne said. “We use it [BIM] as a tool for carrying out analysis, simulation, and communication of project information.”

Byrne said that BIM did in fact help reduce file sizes; however, he remains aware of the ways they could’ve made files even smaller while maintaining their structural integrity.

“We created a large number of viewports in our main building model file of repeating elements, which resulted in generating a complex road map for the drawing,” Byrne said. “In retrospect, perhaps it would’ve been simpler if we had created fewer viewports, used more symbols for apartment layouts, or drawn more repeating elements.”

The most rewarding aspect of implementing BIM for Sean Harrington Architects was the iterative design approach it enabled. As the client and stakeholders requested changes, the architects could quickly and easily update the building information model and have the update reflected across all of their drawings and worksheets.

About Sean Harrington Architects

Sean Harrington Architects is a multi-award-winning Ireland-based architecture firm that specializes in public buildings and residential projects. They operate on three fundamental philosophies: to design sustainably, to make better places, and to celebrate craftsmanship.

Now recognized as a staple in the architecture sector, Sean Harrington Architects has been in business for over 15 years; in this time they’ve developed a distinctive contemporary design language, based on sound environmental principles and a deep understanding of technical matters.

Images courtesy of Sean Harrington Architects.

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