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Howth House

The clients had been living next door in a Victorian villa, a house of many rooms; they wanted a convivial living space which more loosely accommodated contemporary family life.

The idea for the new house started from an introductory conversation held with the client on the site. Looking out to sea, with the sun on our backs, we discussed our shared preference for facing north, watching the effect of the light on the landscape, without the glare of the sun in your eyes – the quiet of standing in the shadow and looking at the light. Half way up the hill of Howth, overlooking the harbour, the site lies sandwiched between houses, blinkered by its boundaries and mesmerised by the outline of the island of Ireland’s Eye.

Howth, Dublin 13
End Year:
  • 190th Royal Scottish Academy Annual Exhibition
    Edinburgh, Scotland, 16 Apr – 25 May 2016
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters 2015 Awards: O’Donnell + Tuomey
    Dublin, 29 Oct  – 9 Nov 2015

A straightforward three part plan and sectional organisation grew out of the site conditions. The house was designed from the inside out, or from the sense of being within the site looking out, and each development in the form was designed from first principles. A long wall is aligned between two trees which fix diagonally opposite corners of the plot, the body of the house turns to focus on the island, the walls bend to cup the space that flows between them.

The house is extended like a telescope, it is designed as a device for directing light through from the south and views out to the north, but its scale is determined by everyday domestic routines. Dimensions are set out from the fixed points of fireplace and kitchen, with the dining table as the centre of gravity around which the plan revolves.

The long walls are load bearing, there are no columns or cross walls, the space flows on. Transparency is maintained along the length of the house and the structure takes its lateral stability from concrete floor slabs. Concrete ceilings are boardmarked in correspondence with the floorboard pattern of the rooms. Timber floors turn up at their edges to make partitions and balustrades, avoiding any secondary detail of railings or skirtings. Spiralled inside their wooden boxes, the sky lit shower rooms are tiled all over in glass mosaics. External brickwork is smeared over in grey-pigmented limewash and internal wall surfaces are selectively painted to emphasise the effect of light and dark on the character of the house. Earth based colours saturate one face of each longitudinal wall with cross cuts providing contrasting highlights in the linear structure.


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