Highly Commended: A dramatically set rural retreat, the Highly Commended Quarry House by Clancy Moore Architects blends brooding melancholy with Scandinavian-style optimism
The familiar notion of the rural retreat is reconceptualised in this project for a multi-generational family house in County Wicklow in south-east Ireland. Set in a disused quarry, which provided stone for a nearby reservoir in the 19th century, the house can be colonised as a single dwelling, two semi-detached houses or four apartments. Designed to accommodate three families, these assorted configurations can host up to 11 people.
The site lies in a national park with strict constraints on new development, so the conventional solution of a group of individual houses was a non-starter. Instead, the dwelling templates are conflated and organised in a single-storey structure that confidently straddles the forest terrain like an inhabited bridge. Sitting lightly on the ground, the house/bridge is a logical response to the unstable ground conditions.
Constrained by the shadow of the quarry wall to the south, and a planning line restricting construction to the north, the project becomes, paradoxically, a kind of urban infill in an otherwise remote rural setting. Spaces are arranged in a butterfly-shaped plan, edged by a narrow veranda. The section is carefully modelled to present a variety of scales and experiences.
More intimate living spaces and bedrooms are set in the lower, north-east facing wing, with taller living spaces addressing the south-west. Alluding to historic Irish stave construction, the house is faced in fins and panels of black-stained Douglas fir, which give it a brooding, slightly melancholic air. Inside, however, white walls and blond wood contrive a more Scandinavian-style optimism.