'No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together, each the happier for the other." The words are from the world's greatest architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who wrote the lines in his 1932 autobiography.
He underlined his philosophy about blending buildings with the forms of nature three years later when he designed his most famous house Fallingwater - set into a hillside and jutting out over a river and waterfall in Pennsylvania. Fallingwater started a revolution in design when it was unveiled and later featured on the cover of Time magazine.
While the great master would have had a fit regarding the general Irish penchant for sticking houses on hills everywhere, there is a big Lloyd Wright connection to the Hill of Howth where many of his Irish disciples were let loose to build contemporary-styled and Lloyd Wright-inspired dwellings through the 60s and 70s. Most notably, Andy Devane, who actually studied and worked for a number of years with Lloyd Wright.
As a young man invited to join the master in the USA, Devane wrote him a letter before travelling in 1946, stating: "I cannot make up my mind whether you are in truth a great architect - or just another phony." To this, Lloyd Wright is reported to have replied: "Come along and see." Contemporary homes designed to Lloyd Wright's principles by Devane in the locality included Sheilmartin Cottage, his own Journey's End, while Thulla - the home he built for the McMullan family overlooking Howth Harbour - was estimated to have been the most expensive house built in its day.
Other architects weighed in with the style and Howth's hillsides today have a great body of homes in this ilk. Ard Na Rí, a contemporary architect-designed, split-level home off the Old Carrickbrack Road in Baily, Howth, is certainly 'of' the hill rather than 'on' it. So much so that when architect Declan Clabby was brought in to restore the house and refurbish it around 10 years ago, he was soon brought back again with the remit to install a lift, so arduous were the flights of steps up to it. He also added an extra floor on top.
Sadly, the grand designs of a home-grown architect sometimes manage to shed their creator and neither the owners nor the restorative architects seem to know who it was that sketched up the original plans in the 1970s.
The reworked house spans 3,131 sq ft or almost three times the size of an average Irish family home, and is laid out over several levels high on the slope and undulating down it.
The siting was obviously to take advantage of some of the best elevated views Dublin has to offer. The house has just been placed for sale today through the Gallagher Quigley estate agency, seeking €2m. Apart from the usual improvements one might expect to find in a home of this stature, there's the relatively recent installation of a timber-clad concrete lift shaft to whisk you from the secure, gated parking area up to the house itself. This rises up the equivalent of about four floors and it's all a bit James Bond master villain.
The mainstay of the accommodation comprises a very substantial open-plan area, which includes the kitchen, the dining room, the living room all with floor-to-ceiling windows and access through sliding doors to an outdoor viewing terrace.
There are five ensuite bedrooms and the main bed chamber has its own terrace. The accommodation is completed by a guest bathroom, a separate family room and a laundry room. Like Fallingwater, this house has plenty of terraces for partying and, at night, the views show the city lights twinkling below. If you don't want to be over the hill too quickly, you can always take the steps.
Ard Na Rí
Baily, Howth, Co Dublin
Asking price: €2m
Agent: Gallagher Quigley (01) 818 3000
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