Three years later came his greatest Irish work, a holiday home for Americans Milt and Martha Lomask, who had retired to London. Milton was a violinist and regular recording collaborator with jazz legend Charlie Parker, among others, including Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra, while Martha was a writer of cookbooks, including the All-American Cookbook. The house is divided into three parts on stepping platforms that overlap to form a circulation and service spine connecting the master bedroom and study at the top, the children’s bedrooms in the middle and the entrance, kitchen and living room at the bottom, all gathered around a large west-facing sundeck. Every room is south-facing, with a view of the cove. The construction is classic Segal: simple pad foundations with timber stilts and bracing. Walter described it as a model of his method: “Once the frame is up, the roof goes on and you move the building materials inside and work under cover.” Here, for the first time, as in most of his subsequent projects, he specified autoclaved fibre-cement Glasal façade boards as the outer leaf of the sandwich panel, friction-held in position by vertical battens, without the use of nails, screws or adhesive.
The Lomasks sold the house to the German family Büttner in 1982. Dr Ute Büttner told Nicholas Cunningham that her family, who had been visiting Ireland since 1970, rented a holiday house by the sea in 1982. “Across the next field, in ca 200m distance, we discovered a very interesting, unusual house, snuggled into the hill behind, consisting of three cubes arranged like big stairs with an inner open terrace between. The house consisted of more than 75% windows and some grey timber walls. We got in contact with the local estate agent and in November he told us that the house was for sale. When my husband then came to Rossbrin, the sky was as grey as the house, but inside it seemed to be brighter. From then on we passed every summer and some Easter and autumn holidays in this house. We only changed the windows, because they were mostly broken at the edges – no wonder, standing 20m away from the Atlantic ocean! We restored two wonderful Walter Segal chairs we found broken in the garage, which are comfortable and extremely modern. We did not add any insulation; the house is only heated by a black cast-iron stove, which is ok for the summer period.”
The architectural historian Peter Blundell Jones reckoned that the compulsive utilitarianism of Walter’s work was born of deliberate restraint – probably a reaction against his extraordinary and privileged upbringing in the artistic commune of Monte Verità, with its religious and vegetarian cults. Without looking at the buildings too closely or knowing the man, it is easy enough to dismiss them as ordinary, banal; ‘not really architecture’. Walter’s reply? “Real appreciation of simple architecture depends on a good and well-trained eye… Superficially these dwellings are modest and simple, but their detailing is superb.” It is fortunate indeed when they fall into good hands.