Connemara is a windswept, roughhewn, and endlessly beautiful landscape. The commonly heard phrase, ‘four seasons in a day’ speaks to the ever present weather that can be both debilitating and invigorating but also creates a perpetually changing and extraordinary display of light and colour each day. Travelling west and leaving behind the town of Clifden, one arrives at the shores of the Atlantic and the distinct feeling of being at the edge of the earth takes hold. ‘Here be Dragons’.
In this sublime and tempestuous place we have made a house that is both a sanctuary from and celebration of the elements. Wide overhanging eaves spread a feeling of shelter around the building. Robust concrete buttresses resist both the thrust of the roofs and the rush of the wind. Yet the structure is responsive to the weather. The buttresses hold the gutters down from the eaves to open up a space for rain where one can see the rivulets fall from the corrugated steel. They also contain within them the downpipes, discharging the rain into twelve unique gulleys. The building resonates with vernacular form and material, with the common post facto abutments found in many rural buildings, and with the ‘ride’ at Russborough House where every turn of the rain is celebrated.
The slender and delicate internal structure is the counterpoint to the muscular external concrete. In the large hall there is a play between this elegant tectonic and the abstract plane, between the curved form and the linear, between the repetitive and the singular. Bowed walls evoke the idea of sanctuary while making a space for dining and a space for food. The fireplace anchors the room and is made from the same stone as the surrounding field walls, recalling its agricultural past.
In the end, the owners say they enjoy this ‘safe harbour’ most when it is raining, because it is then that the house comes alive.