Experimental House

Experimental House
Despite variations in context and landscape, homes and buildings across Ireland are indistinguishable from each other, and from generic construction globally. Image: Frank Miller
An exploration of alternative construction methodologies which utilises local resources, challenges standardisation and embraces uncertainty.

Sligo, Ireland
Team members
Donn Holohan
Elspeth Lee
Field of work
Architecture, Design, Ecology, Research, Other
Project category
Material tracking and reuse
Project submitted

Superposition is an experimental architecture studio founded by Donn Holohan and Elspeth Lee which integrates teaching, research and practice. Working between Hong Kong and Ireland, our work merges vernacular methods with digital tools, with a view toward making architecture which is specific rather than generic, pragmatic but not utilitarian, and with a strongly community-centred view of evolving tradition and place.

In response to the globalised, financialised and generic nature of construction today, we aim to find more ethical and sustainable ways of engaging with architecture. Through an examination of historic cultures of building, alternative economic models and an engagement with the latest technological advances, Superposition develops, makes and builds novel spatial and tectonic systems which aim to demonstrate alternative approaches to making architecture in the real world. All of our projects have been generated not by work stages or a client brief, but through proposition, debate, and engagement with community and place, and each problem encountered - whether it is a lack of resources, skilled labour, or site constraints, defines an opportunity for architectural expression.

We have worked on projects in rural China and Ireland with local craftspeople, governments and NGOs, including the award-winning Wind and Rain Bridge and Sun Room, which explore the potential of digital design and fabrication techniques to reinvigorate traditional craft. Our work has received numerous awards in Hong Kong and Ireland, was profiled in the RIBA Journal, and we have been invited to contribute to numerous university reviews lectures, presentations and talks.

We hope to take what we have learned in the classroom, field and laboratory and find new ways to expand and scale our work to address some of the more urgent problems surrounding the provision of housing and civic space, the nature of architectural production and the dignity of labour.

The need for certainty is part of an important effort to make buildings safer, however, it is also fundamentally linked to the economic models which shape the factory system. Contemporary building practice is a rigidly linear process where design must precede the act of building. This standardised approach, while simple to automate, makes integration of locally available and natural materials difficult, and negates the improvisational quality of craft practices - reducing construction to the assembly of a kit of parts. We believe that working with uncertainty does not mean accepting chaos, and that the attempt to eliminate variability is inconsistent with material reality. Rebirth, change, and adaptation are fundamental to resilience.

The experimental house aims to be a testing ground for this approach. The first iteration is an exposed structure comprised of folded steel nodes and irregular forest thinnings – a low-cost and overlooked material, located within a gallery space. The nodes provide the guiding logic for the arrangement of the structure. The design is underpinned by digital design tools which allow for the rapid planning, transformation and translation of the form. It is designed for rapid assembly, without specialised tools, and to be disassembled, relocated, and inhabited upon completion of the exhibition.

In its next phase, the project will adapt itself to a series of sites across Ireland, and begin to take on the materiality and culture of each region, address climactic issues such as rain, prevailing wind and material weathering, and engage the local community in both its construction and use. Through the logic, tools, and methods that we discover and invent during the making of each iteration of the project, we aim to articulate fundamental challenges to the way we build today. We present architecture not as an object but as a process: humane rather than technocratic, seen not as a single solution but as moments of reconciliation.


Superposition is an experimental architecture studio founded by Donn Holohan and Elspeth Lee which integrates teaching, research and practice. Working between Hong Kong and Ireland, …

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