House on Church Road

by Hall McKnight

Occupying a steeply sloping site, this house benefits from open, elevated views across an adjacent golf course, and the city beyond, to distant hills that surround Belfast. To the rear the setting is dominated by the mature, though manicured, environment of the course and the hills in the distance; an unusually open and unexpected connection with landscape to discover within a city. The front looks over a graveyard towards a major arterial route close to the city centre. This overall set of conditions provide an unusual urban situation which became the driver for the design approach whereby the main rooms were orientated towards the view to the rear; special windows within the main living spaces frame these elevated views from within and inflect from the predominant line of the rear elevation.

Perched on a hill, the house sits alongside an over-scaled apartment building which overlooks the site from higher ground. The response to this context led to the imperative to provide protection of privacy for internal and external spaces whilst affording careful consideration of the relationship to the sun. Analysis of these conditions informed the development of the massing and the section.

The house relates to the context of the neighbouring brick houses with their rosemary-tile roofs through the adoption of similar materials. Working with its own architectural language; the scale of the house interpolates between the over-scaled apartment building to one side and the detached house to the other. The house is organised as 3 mono-pitched elements which vary in sectional relationship and orientation and emerge from a shared base – these three pieces gather together to define a raised courtyard on the middle floor which relates to the entrance hall and a living space.

The house is sited behind a high wall to the street. The main entrance is approached over a wide bridge which, due to the steeply sloping site, provides entry to the middle floor, with views from the entrance hall over a courtyard to the landscape beyond. The house is conceived as three distinct brick mono-pitched forms which collect together in an informal relationship. The connections between these forms are designed as expressed recesses so that each piece is distinct and legible; the detailing is carefully considered to support a strong elemental quality to these forms. Flush glass-to-brick window-details were developed with a specialist contractor and work in counterpoint with deeply recessed excised windows in a deliberate play of form and expression of weight and mass.