The client approached MacGabhann Architects to design a new home for their young family in Co. Sligo. The elevated site located on the steep face of the mountain between Sligo Bay and Ballysadare Bay, presented a number of challenges. Not only due to its topography and prominent siting, but because of its archaeologically significant surrounds.

MacGabhann Architects were enticed by the visually distinctive form of the Knocknarea Mountain that changes depending on the vantage point, as well as the undulating views of the Ox Mountain range across the bay. One of the key aspects of the design which the architects were keen to explore was how the design of the house might in some ways reflect and respond to these changing forms of the landscape. The roof has been carefully designed to echo these forms with bends and kinks that allow the roof profile to act as a continuation of the surrounding landscape.

The House has been split over three levels that step with the contours of the site. The footprint of the lower level follows that of the original dilapidated two-story building which sat on the site, while the upper floors have been extruded to feed back into the hillside. As well as responding to the natural forms and archaeological features found in the landscape, every aspect of the distinctive form and geometry has been well considered in how it enhances the sequence of spaces both internally and externally as you move through the house. The name Oisrí, meaning oyster, was chosen by the Client as reference to the sea-side location, but also to reflect the way in which the shell-like structure of the roof folds down to provide a sense of shelter and folds up in certain areas to invite light, views and a connection to the outside.

The angled walls to the East draw you into the main entrance of the house at first floor level underneath the roof overhang. Internally the ceilings follow the profile of the roof, so as you enter into the central hallway space you’re greeted by high sloped ceilings. Natural light is brought in through large sculptural slit skylights which accentuate the generosity of the space. The roof acts as a wayfinding tool to lead you through the house, sloping down into the main bright open plan living spaces of the house or up towards the more snug upper-level Den which is intended as a much quieter and secluded space, accessed via is own staircase and nestled up in the trees. The open plan living area provides expansive views, looking out over the bay and mountains beyond. Large glazed sliding doors allow the living spaces to extend out onto the patio during the summer months. The bedrooms are located on the lower level of the house and accessed via a shared library and study area.

The clients have a great love and appreciation for the outdoors and saw the external spaces as an extension of the interior rooms. Getting this connection right was central to the design, especially on such a steep site where meaningful outdoor spaces that the whole family could enjoy were hard to come by. This was achieved by creating a series of stepped terrace gardens which follow the internal levels of the house. Each level serves a different purpose and allows every part of the house to have a direct connection to the outside. The terraces are formed using retaining walls made from large boulders which were excavated from the site. Rainwater is gathered and discharged through ‘gargoyles’, which creates a sensory connection to nature and heightened awareness of the weather, even from within the house.


Grand Designs Magazine July 2021