“Maybe we could meet in Kinsale and see if the house is still there,” said Neil Hegarty, former Cork City architect. One bite and I was hooked. Lunch seemed in order. Searching on Google Maps wouldn’t be half as much fun. Thus the story of not one, but two, Dillon houses unfolded over fish pie in The Spaniard.
“I was teaching in the school of architecture at the Crawford School of Art”, he says, referring to the short-lived Cork school of the 1950s and ’60s. He had been part of the first cohort of students admitted in 1956. It was a three-year Part 1 course. He finished in 1959 and like most of his classmates, went on to Oxford Poly for his Part 2. But he delayed a year in order to concentrate on qualifying for the Irish sailing team at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, where Nervi’s work left the greatest impression on him, apart from walking behind Ronnie Delany and the flag at the opening ceremony. In Oxford he observed Arne Jacobsen’s St Catherine’s College under construction. He spent his honeymoon traveling across the eastern United States on a $99/99-day Greyhound Bus pass, following an itinerary prepared by his Cork classmate Gerald McCarthy, then working for Kevin Roche at Eero Saarinen’s. It included an afternoon spent chatting with Philip Johnson at his Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut.
When he got back to Cork, Neil persuaded his father to develop and build Dundannion Court in Blackrock (1964–68), now inscribed on the Record of Protected Structures and which won the RIAI Gold Medal for Housing for the period 1968–70. I have seen the medal. It is gold. It may be unique, as every other Housing Medal I have seen is silver. He was off sailing again in 1966, for two months in Sydney, chosen as one of 20 crack Europeans to race 505 dinghies against the best Australians, who were developing a team to compete for the America’s Cup. The hosts threw in a free round-the-world air ticket, with stay overs at Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tahiti and the Bahamas. He got to tour the Opera House building site while down under.
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