The Dolmen House dominates a commanding site overlooking Lough Swilly, with a distant view of Grianán Aileach across the lough. “We wanted to avoid the problems of Philip Johnson’s Glass House, where there is no privacy anywhere,” he says, “so we made a solid stone block to contain all of the backup areas – cloakroom, utility, children’s playroom, home office and garage – and provide enclosure at one end of the fully glazed shared space and its patio, which allows the inhabitants feel as though they are living within the landscape. We had considered using stone like at the Zumthor baths and thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be great?’ But we have our own stone falling out of our ears in Donegal. These stones, from field boundaries on the family farm, were honed by the owner’s forefathers in the same townland, which seemed important.”
The plan is simple and direct. Beyond the stone base is the full-height stairwell and a three-bay, open-plan kitchen/dining/living/party space, opening onto a sunroom facing south-southwest. At the head of the stairs is a more intimate sitting room with a terrace overlooking the lough. A long, gently stepping library corridor at the back of the plan connects to four bedrooms and a gym and steam room at the northern end, overhanging the carport. All of the sculptural brio comes from the figured section of the crisply detailed monolithic capstone, with its doubly slanted undercroft and angular roof.
An extension is planned next year, with more bedrooms and a swimming pool. “It was like solving a Rubik’s Cube,” says Tarla, “extending the architectural concept that’s there, adding complexity. We can’t be slaves to what we do. The extension makes the whole ensemble better. At the moment, the house stands shoulder-square, saying, ‘Look at me’. It’s perhaps a little too classical, a bit too full-frontal. Now we will bring some of the walls down to the ground, using the same fibre cement panels. The extension will anchor the ‘flying dolmen’.”