Clancy Moore Architects



Two houses in a Quarry


Project Description

This project involves the construction of two dwellings for a brother and sister, whose family have lived in this valley of the Dublin Mountains for three generations. Nineteenth century infrastructure in the form of a reservoir dominates the valley floor, and has led to the area being designated an area of outstanding natural beauty. Aware of this context our approach was to site the houses in the scar of the disused quarry which had originally been used to make the reservoir.  
In this fractured landscape of discarded quarry spoil and outcrops of bedrock the houses act as an inhabited bridge.  Touching the ground in three places only, the two houses span between natural and man made outcrops - service structures(boiler & stores) and a shared entrance staircase.  
Constructed in timber the houses language derives from the structure necessary to achieve these spans. The exposed vertical fins which bind the structural beams together also act to protect the more fragile cladding boards set deep between them, a technique and language developed through an interest in early Irish timber henges, and in the Nordic tradition of Stave Construction.
Constrained by the shadow cast by the quarry wall to the south and a planning line which restricted construction to the north (due to proximity to the potable water reservoir) the project is paradoxically urban or ‘infill’ in this otherwise rural condition.  Within the given form between these two lines living spaces and bedrooms are arranged to give well proportioned spaces. deep views and contained rooms. This exercise in poché extends to the section which is modelled to present a variety of scales of spaces.  More intimate living spaces and bedrooms occur in a lower, north-east facing wing.  Taller living spaces address the south-west.  Striking the one horizontal line in this dramatically varied topography the houses and their roof offer the only manicured spaces in the form of rooms, indoor and outdoor, covered terraces and a roof garden.  The form of the two dwellings closes the quarry to create a shared communal garden room overlooked by a long verandah and the tall living rooms. The rest of the site is left as found.
The douglas fir timber(sourced locally) used to clad the houses is stained with a  preservative whose black finish helps the houses sit into the shadows cast by the forest canopy rendering the structure invisible from distance vantage points.
The houses are fully integrated with the natural resources of their site.  Rainwater is harvested, timber from the forest is chopped, left to dry in the external areas below the house and burnt in stoves and gassification boilers. While extensive solar collectors heat the water. Due to the nature of their timber construction the fabric of the houses acts to sequester 250tonnes of CO2.  The structure & plan of the houses allow them to grow and contract over the lifetime of the family from two houses with two apartments devisable to two four bedroom dwellings. While the possibility of combining both houses into one residence is preserved 

Research Description

The output from this research has been achieved through a design-led process. The work arose from an opportunity for collaborative practice and from previous research conducted by Clancy & Moore.  The process began in 2007.  Initial research focussed on the physical nature of the lands. The disused quarries were selected for their role in carrying previous narratives of the site.  From early 2008 work focused on geotechnical analysis in the site and experimentation with construction techniques to deal with forms emergent from this analysis.  Systematic testing and investigation developed a system of timber construction to deal with the large spans required.  This was coupled to research into early medieval massive timber buildings to produce a site specific language of architecture which would present itself as infrastructure to the difficult terrain of the quarry and discreet domestic rooms to the interior of the houses.
From 2010 the project worked on a  series of parallel processes - refinement of the formal relationships between the building and context; resolution of technical challenges to allow fro a minimal carbon footprint; detailed examination of the interior space, proposition and linings.
The project has won numerous awards including RIAI house of the Year 2013, AAI Downes Medal for excellence in Architecture and the IDI Award for best domestic interior. The work has been critically peer reviewed and widely disseminated internationally, including books and numerous journal, magazine and newspaper articles.  Alongside exhibitions in Venice, Brussels, London & Dublin the work has been the subject of papers delivered in Dundee, Aberdeen, Belfast Dublin, Mendrisio, London, Ghent and at the the Backstage Architecture event at the Venice Biennale 2012.