ODOS Architects creates introverted house on "undevelopable" site in Dublin

Designed to look like a garden wall, this seemingly windowless brick house in Dublin was created by ODOS Architects to reference an orchard that once occupied the site (+ slideshow).

No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects

The narrow plot is located in the grounds of a historic structure in Monkstown, surrounded by tall Victorian-era properties.

Four previous designs for the site had been refused planning permission, so the site had been branded "undevelopable".

No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects

Rather than try to compete with the surrounding structures, London-based ODOS Architects decided to create a building as inconspicuous as a garden wall, referencing the site's former use as an orchard. There are no street-facing windows or a visible roof.

It is an approach that is becoming popular in built-up areas, with recent examples in London including a courtyard house by Jack Woolley and a pavilion-like home by Phillips Tracey Architects.

No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects

"The planners had concluded that, because of the pivotal nature of the site as a visual anchor to the street, the idea of building a traditional dwelling there would detract from the character of the street and the adjoining protected structure," explained project architect John Crowley.

No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects

"They were also adverse to the idea of constructing a building in a similar style to the others, as this would be viewed as pastiche replication," he continued.

"In embracing these restrictions, what developed was a concept for a house that looked for all intents and purposes like a Victorian wall – in the same brick palate of the adjoining residence."

No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects

The team excavated down by 2.5 metres, allowing enough height to create a two-storey building behind the original stone wall.

This new structure has no windows on its outer walls, and instead brings in light through windows fronting secluded courtyards.

No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects

"The interior is perforated by a series of interconnected courtyard spaces across both levels, drawing light into the interior while also creating a flowing relationship between inside and outside spaces," said Crowley.

No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects

Three bedrooms are arranged in a row on the sunken ground floor, all with glazed walls fronting a terrace known as the Zen garden. There is also a small living room on this floor.

No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects

Upstairs, two decked terraces divide the space into a dining room and kitchen, and a separate lounge. Thanks to the glazed walls, it is possible to look all the way across the space.

No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects

Rooms are furnished with various design classics, including Arne Jacobsen's Egg chair and Series 7 chairs, Nils Strinning's String shelving and a Plane bed by Felix Stark.

No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects

Concrete floors conceal underfloor heating. There are no skirting boards, so only shadow gaps separate these floors from the bright white walls.

No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects

Skylights help to bring in extra light and the roof is covered with sedum to help it blend in when viewed from above.

No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects

ODOS architects was established in 2002 by architects Darrell O'Donoghue and David O'Shea. The firm previously collaborated with LA-based Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects to restore and extend a 19th-century coachhouse, also in Dublin.

Photography is by Alice Clancy.


Project credits:

Client: Conor Grealis
Architects: ODOS Architects
Project architect: John Crowley
Construction: PJ Grealis Construction
Engineering: Loscher Moran Consulting Engineers
Energy consultant: Archie O' Donnell
Furniture: Lost Weekend

No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects
Ground floor plan – click for larger image
No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects
First floor plan – click for larger image
No 1 Alma Road by ODOS Architects
Section – click for larger image