A family home nestled into the landscape
Nestled into the rural landscape of County Cavan, Portanure House combines traditional building techniques with contemporary technologies to create a simple and elegant modern home. Located on the western shores of Lough Gowna, the dwelling embodies a deep ambition to assimilate with its rustic surroundings. Work began on this property in November 2015 and work finished in May 2017.
This property was designed by Steven Moon of McGarry-Moon Architects. McGarry-Moon Architects is a design-led rural practice located outside Kilrea, Northern Ireland. As a young dynamic practice, projects are seen as an opportunity to create beautiful, lasting and enriching architecture. Operating across Ireland and internationally, they design a mix of public and private contemporary buildings. Their design process fuses new technologies with older building techniques, in order to create an architecture for the 21st century that adopts the spirit of the vernacular.
Over the past five years McGarry-Moon Architects have been recipients of six RIBA awards and three RSUA awards, and were shortlisted for the prestigious RIBA Stephen Lawrence Prize 2017 for their architecture office ‘Fallahogey Studio.’ Here Mr Moon talks to us about this property. “The clients approached us as they wanted to build a contemporary house on family land which overlooked Lough Gowna which is a very remote part of Cavan. The house lends itself very well to the area; a satelite navigation system would never bring you to this house! The house can never been seen by anybody as it is in such a remote part of Cavan,” said Steven Moon.
“The design is expressed as a glazed plinth with a floating timber-clad volume above. On approaching the house, a reclaimed sandstone wall leads guests along to the entrance and establishes the dwelling’s northern boundary.”
“The interior was developed as a series of sub-spaces that ebb and flow into one another. As one space shifts into the next unexpected sightlines emerge, creating a spatial richness,” explained Mr Moon. The design of the house is rather spectacular and as previously mentioned the house lends itself well to its surroundings; this house is striking to look at throughout the year but especially during the winter months when the water level is high. In terms of layout, the ground floor is composed of open plan living, kitchen and dining areas, with ancillary spaces located to the north of the property. Glazed on three sides, the living and dining areas flow out to terraces with impressive views across Lough Gowna. A timber staircase is lit from above by a large roof light, flooding the stairs and double-height entrance space with natural light.
“First floor accommodation includes a master suite, three bedrooms, study and family bathroom. The diagonally pitched roof configuration creates an accentuated feeling of space in the upstairs rooms. Externally the zinc roof composition serves to integrate the building into the landscape, creating a subtle addition to the surrounding area and the view from Lough Gowna. A stone clad separate small building to the northwest provides a double garage,” revealed Steven. “The plan for the house is quite a traditional and linear one,” added Mr Moon.
The building work went smoothly enough and as it was a selfbuild project all elements were organised by the clients themselves. The scheme deals intelligently with the climate, integrating environmental techniques from the onset of the design process. The house is constructed to passivhaus standards in order to minimise future energy requirements. The building fabric ensures excellent thermal performance, airtightness and incorporates mechanical heat recovery ventilation. The house is insulated with wool insulation and it also has an air to water heat pump installed. The polished concrete floors downstairs create a thermal mass. The wool insulation along with the airtightness membranes work well together. Throughout the year, the polished concrete floors downstairs are heated by sunshine and this floor holds the heat. “Concrete flooring combined with the stone wall provide thermal mass to utilise solar gain, helping to maintain a stable internal temperature. An air to water heat pump efficiently delivers heat requirements through under-floor heating within the polished concrete floor,” imparted Steven.
“Portanure House fulfills the client’s brief regarding comfort, value and environmental friendliness. A re-evaluation of vernacular dwelling, this property constitutes a modern interpretation of a rural dwelling, creating a balance between tradition and innovation,” he said. “This was a nice little project to work on, the clients were very trusting and open minded which is very important; they wanted something different and forward thinking but done with as many traditional materials as possible. “The house respects the surrounding landscape and wider environment, whilst fulfilling the desires and lifestyle aspirations of a modern family,” concluded Steven Moon.