Simply Architecture won the Future Award at the RIAI Irish Architecture Awards last summer. The award celebrates an emerging practice in Ireland, honoured for its work over recent years. Why Simply Architecture? “There were a few possibilities,” he says. “One aspect was my belief that most simple solutions are the best ones. So it does what it says on the tin. But I also didn’t want my name on the practice, for the sake of the people who would be working with me, because it assumes a hierarchy. It’s an umbrella name, one that everybody can feel a part of.”
The site has an extraordinary location, straddling two worlds – a public park, Ballybrack Woods (known locally as Mangala) to the north and west, and ragged suburbia, including a surface car park and a pair of bleak and boxy three-story flats to the south, which it manages to screen out by rotating the layout of the house at 45 degrees to the road. This first simple design move improves the orientation of the rooms immeasurably, while also embedding the house in the lush surrounding woodland and making the most of the site, which is split on two main levels and falls away sharply at the southern end.
“There were the remains of an old cottage on the site, by the roadside,” says Sullivan. “That’s what informed the gables and roof forms that give the Split House its character.” The house is split in section and plan, with four garden-level bedrooms tucked underneath the living spaces which occupy what appears at first glance to be a slipped pair of semi-detached, gable-fronted cottages. To the right and front is the porch, sheltered beneath a cutaway corner. “We wanted to create a welcoming threshold,” he says. “Not an add-on porch or a canopy, but something integrated with the building. The glass is frameless, there’s no clunky frame in the corner.”
The hall gives onto a generous home office for the clients, both academics at UCC. Beyond is the living room-cum-snug which can be subdivided in two by a folding wall. On the other side are the kitchen with its long horizontal window, the dining room, which is the real heart of the house, and an enclosed balcony terrace, a sheltered outdoor room that provides a framed view of the trees and receives sun from early till late. Its structural glass balustrade is in three sections, cantilevered off clamps set deep within the floor. All of the living areas open into each other but the dining and living areas can be separated by a concealed sliding door framed in steel.