When I came across these photos in the Tegral archive, I was amazed. I knew nothing at all about this strikingly unique example of modernist domestic architecture by an architect whose work I thought I knew quite well. There is much yet to be unearthed from the career of Noel Dowley.
The south-facing site occupies the last ground in Ballyhennick, tight against the townland boundary on the outskirts of Glounthane, overlooking the River Lee and Little Island. The flat-roofed, 4-bedroom house takes the form of a distorted cruciform in plan. The ground floor accommodation is larger than the bedrooms, so the first floor is generally set back from the plane of the ground floor walls, which lends a peculiar, vaguely Mayan, atmosphere to the design. The slanting planes of the mid-wall roofs are a motif we recognise from Dowley’s famous church at Cong (BOTM December 2015).
“This was one of the first houses I ever designed,” he tells me. “It was for an uncle of mine. I had worked out a plan for him, but he was always against it because he thought it was too modern. Then when we were going on site and already digging the foundations, he suddenly said he wanted to revise everything and we had to stop. Then he changed the site as well! We had to get on with building again as quickly as possible, so this is the second design I made. The drawings have all disappeared over the years. The site slopes gently from front to rear, and I wish I had had more time to adapt this revised design more subtly to the topography.”