Two millennia ago the Romans gazed across the Irish Channel from Britannia; to a land they called Hibernia, meaning ‘Land of Winter.’ The Irish Winters are indeed long, but spring paints vibrant colours on a patch quilt landscape, the setting for Meadow Dance.
A wooden box waltzes over a meadow, carried on its stone partner to catch views of the bog beyond – a rich marshland crisscrossed with glimmering streams. As captured in a movie animation, the wood and stone boxes braid together to make a double height parlour space catching sunshine from the south.
Ireland has stone building in its blood. This is a house by the surrounding fields of dry stone walls. These manmade striations are a visible record of time. Local farmers used what was available, and through skills passed down through generations, stone was gathered from ploughed land and local quarries to demarcate family holidays, subdividing again and again over time.
A little further south is Lough Gur – a lake with a necklace of 5,000 year old Neolithic archaeology, including a great stone circle. The patterns and colours of the local stone are captivating and the house brings together flags of yellow sandstone, anchored by large blocks of grey limestone. Reclaimed oak railway sleepers create an island in the meadow, lifting people slightly above the long grass.
The wooden box is expressed in strands of Oak & Beech, picking up on the browns of the marshland, and the yellow of the hay gathered and saved in the surrounding fields in summer.
The parlour is at the heart of the house where everything happens – where the family cook, eat and stay warm together. An interesting focal point, and talking point, is where the stove rests on a stone seat formed in Liscannor stone, which is famous for its wavy fossil tracks left behind by ancient marine life some 350 million years ago.
CO2 emissions and the cost of heating the home in winter are vastly reduced by integrating the latest air-to-water heat recovery technology, avoiding conventional oil burning systems.
The site’s long grasses offer a habitat for ground nesting birds – including wild pheasant and snipe, with both species making a slow but steady recovery in recent years. Perennial wild flowers also help support pollinating insects (one third of the 97 wild bee species are facing extinction in Ireland), now recognised as critical to supporting biodiversity in the countryside.
As captured in the photography and writing of Thomas Fitzgerald, there is a magic in observing the low Irish sun with its amber hue casting long shadows across the grassland from autumn to spring. And there the house can be sent to extend an endless ‘Jig & Reel’ dance of shadows, made more dramatic at sunrise and sunset. Meadow Dance offers a breath of fresh air – a love of contemporary design realised in natural materials inspired by the wonderful Irish countryside.