- Area: 285 sq.m / 3000 sq.ft
A house for outdoors people, the challenge was to design a house to ensure full integration with the surrounding landscape. The shape is informed by the geology of its context, scattered sharp protruding granite rocks in gorse, heather and wildflower.
Located in Co. Donegal at the foot hills of the Bluestack Mountains, the site is a steeply inclined landscape overlooking Lough Craig with Barnesmore Gap providing the backdrop across the lake.
The house is designed as a journey across a landscape, made memorable by giving each of the platforms a different orientation and relationship to its surroundings. The placement of a striking stone 'spine wall' that forms an anchor for the partly subterranean structure is a symbolic response to these protrusions. The spine wall acts as the plane where two rectangular volumetric forms meet, one on an east-west axis , the other on a north-south axis and provides a valuable thermal mass. Both of these volumetric forms are derived from the traditional rural vernacular rectilinear scale, one room deep to maximise space and provide dual aspect.
The traditional house is turned on its head in this case, bedrooms and a home office are located downstairs with living spaces located on the upper levels to maximise light and views. The spine wall defines the experience from the outset, its two storey protrusion on the front elevation draws one inside, the stairs ascend the wall internally, the wall breaks down to become a planter, define a reading area, become a seat, frame a view; the relationship to nature and the environment is ever present. Externally the wall defines a courtyard and links the house with an upper garden.
The tonal qualities of the site's rock backdrop with gorse scrub is echoed in the choice of materials and abundant contrasts. Dry quartzite stone walls contrast to clean oak detailing. Polished limestone floors contrast with local hand-woven tweed soft furnishings, solid white render walls contrast with the many plants green foliage internally and externally. The building is traditionally constructed but highly insulated. Sustainable elements such as a grey water harvesting system and a geothermal heating system extracting heat from the micro-climate have been incorporated into the design to maximise renewable energy.