linearchitecture, Helens Bay, 2012


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Michael McGurk (website)     Download Original

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The project is for a small retirement home for a couple, constructed in the garden of their existing house in a typically varied 20th century suburban location on the outskirts of Belfast

The house takes simple formal cues from the inherently conservative built context of suburbia but reduces them to simply-hewn tectonic forms and a reductive bi-colour palette of materials. The diagram of the house is another study in simple reduction of reaction to context: a defensive street face, a narrow site which offers no sideward views but a full height void throughout the house allows light to penetrate through all areas and acts as a gallery space for the client’s art collection, and a complex layering to the rear that allows the main living spaces to flow onto a south facing terrace and up to a roof terrace that allows a wide ranging vista over protected countryside to the rear.

Alternative Description

A project that strikes fear into every architect’s heart; the house for the parents. Not wanting to consign my septuagenarian parents to their golden years in a conceptual shiny box merely to boost my own career, their house was developed over many long dinners with indecipherable napkin scribbles, jabbed fingers and occasional mocking: we’re a passionate family!

The project was administered to a tee with the clients scrutinizing what they had spent 36 years paying for. Cost control was under the constant scutiny of a thrifty mother while the largess of a spendthrift father ensured that the more whimsical elements of the architecture were never forgotten.

After twenty five years of living in conservative suburbia and deploring every new developer house it was time to leave an indelible mark and they’re very happy with the finished article. If I’m lucky I might inherit it or if the recession continues I may find myself in the spare room.


  • Begun: Sep 2011
  • Completed: Jun 2012
  • Floor area: 166m2
  • Sector: House
  • Total cost: £212,982
  • Tender date: May 2011
  • Procurement: JCT Intermediate Form
  • CO2 Emissions: 14.332kg/m2/year
  • Address: 6a Bridge Road, Helens Bay, BT19 1TH, United Kingdom

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