The owners had had a second home in this part of West Donegal since the 1960s and wanted to continue holidaying there with their children and grandchildren. Their property extended to include almost ten acres.

This part of Donegal, one of the most densely populated rural landscapes in Europe, is characterised by a distinct development pattern, a loose network of clusters and single houses or farms. This site was no different. The existing clachan or compound of dwellings, where the earliest building dates from the late 1800s, had expanded over the years. Now the owners gave their old house to one of the family members and built a new one for themselves, with enough space to accommodate visitors, children and grandchildren.

Although the house itself still forms part of the existing cluster, striving to be a good neighbour, it breaks slightly away from the group, turning towards the sea. The owners wanted it to be closer to the water’s edge. “We walked the site together,” says architect Tarla MacGabhann. “It was a typically windy Donegal day.”

“We gravitated under hillocks, over towards the beach. We all wanted to maintain the view. Not so much to look out, but we also shared an instinct about protection – to be a little more towards the top of the hill so you can see who is coming at you. We selected a place, nestled into a hillock, with a panoramic view from west to east, out to sea and back across the Derryveagh Mountains.”

“When you are operating in the landscape, you have very little to respond to,” says MacGabhann. “Liam McCormick understood that. That’s why so many of his great buildings are sculptural: to work from all sides, a bit like a lighthouse. They have to be seen. We didn’t want that here, not to that extant, but the house is visible from many places.”

“When we are designing in the landscape we don’t consider the red line of the property boundary, because the building sits in a much bigger context, within the broader Donegal landscape – the headland and the islands.”

You can read the full story via the Tegral monthly newsletter. Photographs copyright Dennis Gilbert / VIEW Pictures.