House on Redbrae Farm

RB Drawing 1 NR

House on Redbrae Farm has been shortlisted for an RSUA Design Award / RIBA Regional Award.

A modest dwelling on a farm in rural County Down which is influenced by simple animal enclosures (as opposed to constructions for machinery or hay), often low pitched with wide gables, the best examples of which merge form with landscape.
The house adjusts to the slope of the ground, each section opening out to the contour it finds itself on.




Longhurst has been shortlisted for an RSUA Design Award / RIBA Regional Award.

A dwelling conceived as two masonry forms, offset in plan and section to reflect the steeply sloping site, and to articulate the function of internal spaces. The public elevation is characterised by an embedded courtyard, bringing natural light deep into the plan.


House in a Garden


Work in Progress.

A house in a garden on the periphery of the Lagan Valley Regional Park, south of Belfast.

The building comprises 2 single storey forms, adjacent and parallel but offset in plan. Each form contains either rooms for living and entertaining, or rooms for sleeping. Gable walls extend to capture outdoor space for parking and private relaxation, and steep roofs create generous volumes inside.


A Simple Rural Dwelling


A simple rural dwelling, Lough Neagh Basin, Northern Ireland.

The architectural language is derived from historical typologies and arrangements, and casual rural building forms, modified to harmonise with its setting and to create a visual tension in comparison to conventional traditional forms.


RIBA National Award

Hill House 10

Hill House has won a prestigious RIBA National Award.

We are delighted for our practice, and view this as reward for all of the hard work that goes on in our studio in the background. Projects of this nature have a long gestation period, and there have been many talented people in our studio working on the project, bringing their skills to the table and making real contributions to the outcome. Amazing also for our clients, who trusted us with the task but also had significant inputs into the design and detail of the project, and for our contractor, who held his nerve in delivering such a fantastic project. It has been a great collaboration.


RIBA Regional Award / The Liam McCormick Prize

Hill House 09

We have been successful again at the RSUA/RIBA Awards, at a gala evening hosted by the RSUA at Stormont in Belfast. Hill House won an RIBA Regional Award / RSUA Design Award, the RSUA House of the Year Award, and the coveted Liam McCormick Prize, for overall building of the year.

From the judge's citation;

The house is a demonstration of the skill and mastery of architect McGonigle McGrath in working with form, space, light and material. This is the latest in a sequence of beautifully crafted houses designed and nurtured through the process of construction by the practice. The architect has wrought a series of spaces providing ambitious and generous internal volumes that also offer domestic comfort and warmth. The sectional development of the design responds to the topography of the site and is exploited in multiple locations to manage scale and to generate enjoyment of the view and of space and light. The main living area, a large double-height volume, is skilfully designed to accommodate multiple aspects of family life within one single space. This is an exemplar of the finely honed skill of the architect in understanding how to work with scale, light and acoustics.

The jurors were unanimous in their admiration of Hill House and its obvious worthiness of being recognised with an award. All agreed that Hill House is an extremely accomplished example of domestic architecture of the highest standard.


House Tollymore

TM Update 2 NR

Progress on site.

A deep window socket defines the threshold between the main living space and the terrace, which overlooks the fast flowing river.


Isle of Man


Preliminary massing model for a new project on the south coast of the Isle of Man.

The project takes reference from local coastal stone formations and the topography of the plot.
Card model at scale 1:250.


House in a Walled Garden


Delighted to receive planning permission and listed building consent for this project in a listed walled garden in a large country estate near Downpatrick in County Down.

1:500 concept model in grey card and craft card.


House on an Island


Ongoing work on our project on a small island in Strangford Lough.

The forms are simple in composition, pitched roofs and gables referencing traditional Irish rural forms and arrangements, formality removed by the varied pitches and gable widths, a nod to the casualness of vernacular structures. Windows rarely align with each other vertically, but strong horizontal datums are retained, resulting is an abstract but harmonious arrangement of solid and void, avoiding discordant rhythms and alignments.

The intention is that there are no projections, no overhanging roofs or projecting gutters, rather the forms are designed to be read in a pure way, as familiar shapes or objects on the island, the gabled profile a comfortable and recognisable form in the landscape.


House with 3 Courts, Henley

H 1 NR

Our project in Henley has received full planning permission.

A detached brick villa in a leafy village setting on a long narrow plot with houses either side. The accommodation requirement is brought to an order by organising the plot with geometry. A double square defines the area of intervention held within the plot boundaries maintaining access from the front to rear at either side, and an overlapping nine-rectangle grid defines the area for building, which positions the proposed house just behind the forward building lines of the adjoining properties.

The connection to the garden is achieved by incorporating a series of external courts into the grid, which allows light and green spaces to permeate deep into the plan. These planted courts are visually interlinked through indoor spaces and make a visual and physical connection between the interior spaces and garden. Walls on the external grid lines both define these courtyards, creating a sense of organisation, enclosure and control, and also help maintain a level of privacy to the ground floor spaces.

Due to commence on site early 2023.


RIBA National Award


House at Lough Beg has won a prestigious RIBA National Award.

We are delighted for our practice, and for all of the talented people who worked on this amazing house over many years. It has been over 10 years in the making, our longest running commission, and the long timescale of design and construction have allowed the project to be influenced by other work within the office, so details developed for other projects were able to be employed on this project, therefore in a way this house became (and is) an expression of the development of the core architectural language of our practice.

Huge credit to our client, who took this building from drawings to realisation, and whose ambition and unique contribution to the construction of the house were absolutely critical to the outcome.


RIBA Regional Award


House at Lough Beg has won an RIBA Regional Award (RSUA Design Award) at a gala evening hosted by the RSUA at the Great Hall at Queen's University. The project also picked up the RSUA House of the Year Award, and the Client of the Year Award.

From the judge's citation;

The client for this project bought 100 acres of listed parkland and set about commissioning a house. The process has taken ten years to complete, five years of which was dedicated to the meticulous self-build.

The clients did not want a conspicuous house and the architect has delivered. This home is deferential to the big house of the demesne and to its natural surroundings. It takes the form of the agricultural out-buildings and for a relatively large home it nestles effortlessly into the landscape. Hand made bricks in hues of grey and the zinc roof help the dwelling harmonise with the dark trees beyond.

The absence of formal manicured gardens gives the sense of the house embracing the parkland, almost being enveloped by it. The relationship works both ways. Inside, at every turn, there is a sense of connection to the outdoors - a glimpse here, a framed view there, a waving branch overhead. Simultaneously there is a robustness and permanence to this house.

The house has generous circulation which is filled with light. What could be viewed as a little austere from the outside has a wonderful warmth on the inside.

The building is beautifully detailed. The main reception room has a low long window. This is in the sitting room and it is not until you sit down that you get the benefit of the fantastic view. The building's impact on the environment is offset with the planting of 6000 indigenous trees to both restock the existing woodland and to establish a new woodland.

The client's commitment to this project has produced a very high quality piece of domestic architecture for a low construction cost. It is a fitting home for a custodian of the land.


House in a Walled Garden


A listed walled garden of 1802, a 'hortus conclusus', originally the productive garden for a large estate, and part of an array of walled enclosures and pleasure gardens located on sloping ground to the north east of the main house. The garden was once geometrically planned in gridded paths and borders, and has a dipping pond at its lowest part.

Into this setting a new single storey dwelling is proposed, envisaged as an object in the garden, carefully placed away from the historic walls but informed by their geometry. A grid is used to generate spaces in plan, a reference to the historic gridded layouts evident in mid 19th century mappings, but lost over time. The house is 2 low linear forms, one relating to the north-east (south-west facing) wall, and one relating to the open garden, and the forms are parallel but slightly offset from each other, providing each with a massing and proportional relationship to the spaces they address.

Embedded into this grid of spaces is a series of covered and open courtyards, permitting both the internal rooms to engage with the garden, and for the garden to invade the organisation of the plan. These external spaces relate to the gardens, to internal function, and to the path of the sun and therefore time.


Work in Progress

Rolly 4

Massing study for a new project on an island in Strangford Lough.


House at Lough Beg


A Rising Field

In this vaulted room, the window head is set low to make a different relationship with the landscape. On entering the room, the view through the window is filled with the green of a rising field to the west. There is no horizon. The room is for relaxation, and the window encourages the occupants to sit, to relax, and when they do, the full extent of the remarkable parkland, the tree clumps, the lough and the distant hills, come into view.


House Newcastle


House Newcastle has received planning permission.

The form is a simple continuous mono pitch roof, with the low side to the outside, road and neighbour, and the high side to the private garden side. Where the roof forms meet, the roof is hipped, but it is gabled at the ends. A simple square roof light is positioned where the forms meet to emphasise the 'hinge' and to bring natural light to the hallway below.


Hill House

Hill 2

Main room from the upper level.

A wall at upper level articulates the volumes relating to the distinct living functions below.


Intervention in a Terrrace

King 3

A moderation between mountain and sea.

Model 1:50.


House in a Walled Garden

Finn 2

A listed walled garden of 1802, originally the productive garden for a large estate, and part of an array of walled enclosures and pleasure gardens located on sloping ground to the north east of the main house. Only the 5 metre high walls and a neat Victorian bothy of the original assembly remain, the garden now overgrown and wild.

Into this setting a new single storey dwelling is proposed, envisaged as an object in the garden, carefully placed away from the historic walls but informed by their geometry. A grid is used to generate spaces in plan, a reference to the historic gridded layouts evident in mid 19th century mappings, but lost over time.

Embedded into this grid of spaces is a series of covered and open courtyards, permitting both the internal rooms to engage with the garden, and for the garden to invade the organisation of the plan. These external spaces relate to the gardens, to internal function, and to the path of the sun and therefore time.


House at Lough Beg

Gable 1Gable 2

Gable model and detail.

The gable window is positioned on the edge, and the reveal is chamfered, combining with a thickened wall and relating to the solid, employing deep brick reveals, brick heads and honed granite thresholds through the full depth of the wall, inside and out, in a direct response to its place both in the sense of capturing a particular view, and in the reading of the building as an eroded object.

Model in Bockingford watercolour paper, 1:40.


House in South Belfast

Long 1Long 4

A house on a slope in south Belfast with long views to the Lagan Valley.

The dwelling is conceived as two masonry forms, offset in section and plan to reflect the sloping ground, to articulate both the functions of the internal spaces and external terraces, and to create both public and private spaces.

The upper form is single storey but on 2 levels, and comprises the entrances and guest facilities, gym and study, and integrates with an embedded parking court and detached garage. The 2 levels are separated by a courtyard which is designed to bring natural light deep into the plan.
The lower form is two storey and contains all of the private spaces, bedrooms above and primary living spaces below. The upper level maintains a roof datum with the main entrance level, and is connected visually to the lower level through the stairwell and other voids which link the internal spaces volumetrically and which permit roof light to penetrate deep into the interior.

These two slipped forms rest on a stepped concrete plinth which is inserted into the slope and which negotiates the journey from laneway to garden.

The project is currently on site.


House in a Rural Landscape

Moss 2

A house at the foot of a sloping field, first observed from a distance against a backdrop of hedgerow, field and dense woodland. The project takes its form from casual local agricultural buildings, is clad in black corrugated metal, and uses the devices of plinth, open corner, lean-to, and chimney to help establish a dialogue with its rural setting.


PhD by Practice


Kieran has been awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Queen's University's first PhD by Practice in Architecture.

Research title: The Alignment of a Manner of Architectural Practice and its Architecture: Rural Houses in the North of Ireland by McGonigle McGrath Architects.

The image above is representative of the drawing process.

The singular strategy of overlap, driven by a compositional concern, is embedded in the process which makes our work, and in the projects and buildings that result.

Drawing lines is central to the work; the marks we make on paper represent the development of a drawing technique refined through successive projects. These sketches are made on transparent layout paper using pens. The paper is always cut from a roll to A3 scale and used in landscape format. The transparency of the paper allows us to quickly draw and redraw using the simple technique of overlay, and we often work between 2 sheets, reversing the order of overlay after each sketch iteration to maintain a flow of thoughts. This leads to a series of consecutive relationships, allowing a process of testing, refinement and ultimately reduction, where through an exploration of proportion, composition and framing, the project gets abstracted or heightened to a point where it 'stands apart'.


House on a Coastal Headland

Geddis 3

A new project for a previous client for a house on an exposed coastal headland in North Down.

Model 1:100.


House with 3 Courts, Henley

Henley 2

A new project in an established leafy setting near Henley.

The proposal is envisaged as a collection of volumetric spaces, brought to an order by geometry. A double square defines the area of intervention held within the plot boundaries and an overlapping nine-rectangle grid defines the area for building. The grid enables placement of ground level rooms and courtyards to maximise natural lighting from south light, and visual connection between spaces.

Massing model 1:100.


Intervention in a Farm Courtyard


An intervention in a farm courtyard in rural Northern Ireland.

The project comprises a room in which to eat and socialise, making a connection between the existing domestic farm buildings, and providing a new private entrance and lobby.

Part model 1:100.


House Tollymore

TM 1

Brickwork progressing on site.


Architect of the Year Awards

Ballyscullion Gable

We have been announced winners at the Architect of the Year Awards 2020, in the Individual House Architect of the Year category, organised by Building Design. We are delighted with this outcome given the very high standard of all of the other shortlisted practices.

Thanks to all of our clients without whose commitment these projects would be impossible.


House Newcastle

Bryansford 1Bryansford 2

The proposal is for a modestly scaled single storey dwelling.

The form is a simple continuous mono pitch roof, with the low side to the outside, road and neighbour, and the high side to the private garden side. Where the roof forms meet, the roof is hipped, but it is gabled at the ends. A simple square roof light is positioned where the forms meet to emphasise the 'hinge' and to bring natural light to the hallway below.

To the rear, the rhythm of openings have been carefully proportioned, retaining a datum height and allowing a weight of solid masonry above, introducing a sense of mass to the private side. On the public side to the road, the horizontality is reinforced by a deep linear gutter which extends beyond the building on one side to a downpipe within a freestanding masonry pier.

The whole assembly sits on a stepping plinth, again influenced by the geometry of the square.


Hill House

Brick 1

Brickwork progress at Hill House.


Periphery House

Periphery 2Periphery 1

The plot is on the edge of a village in rural Leicestershire, a sloping field on the north side of the main road and the last plot before open countryside. There are views north to a locally important hill which is a prominent landmark in the area. An ambition for the project was to seek to blur the boundaries between the built forms of the village and the local agricultural buildings in the countryside.

An underlying geometry of overlapping squares anchors the project which otherwise is about defining room levels to suit topography using a plinth, with walls and chimneys defining enclosure at different levels, and a roof structure inspired by agricultural forms resting on the walls to enclose volume, resulting in a project which captures light, maintains privacy and reveals views.

The building form and positioning of upper level openings create an ambiguity which mediates between village and countryside.


Mountain Cabin

Mountain Cabin

A cabin in a mountain landscape.

The accommodation comprises a single room for relaxation, with associated support spaces, all raised on robust posts of oak above the rugged sloping ground, and orientated towards a particular view. The form is a simple volume with a low asymmetrical roof covered in grey zinc, the pitch angles relating to the distant mountain profiles, and the oak frame and cladding are stained to compliment the muted green tones of the adjacent woodlands.

Where the building meets the slope, the zinc roof creases upwards to follow a deviation in the plan geometry, creating a verandah and signifying the entrance.



Reveals 9

The reveal drawing records window reveals on ten domestic projects over a ten year period, a study of the relationship of windows to wall thickness. The selection is not thorough, as there tends to be many reveal conditions on any single project, rather the drawing shows a development through type of an attitude to the cut through the wall, the wall thickness, the position of the window in the depth of the reveal, and a trend towards rebate in the reveal to recess the window frame, enabling a simple external reading of 'void'.

The splayed reveal is different from the straight (perpendicular) reveal in that it is a spatial move, exaggerating the thickness of wall therefore relating the interior to the exterior. Each of the reveals in the drawing is represented as a line, disconnected from the room and the exterior, but articulating the plan profile. The line moves from the inside to the outside and represents a transition from room to elevation.


House with 3 Courtyards, County Down

Ballykeel 1Ballykeel 2

A single level accessible house in the countryside south of Belfast, proposed as a simple, low and elegant brick form which can only be glimpsed from the main road through the mature trees on site. Courtyard enclosures to the east, south and west, also in brick, create a series of connected and tranquil gardens, each relating to the rooms served, providing a controlled and private outdoor environment. Views are permitted to the woodlands beyond through perforations in the courtyard walls.

Roof windows and a raised ceiling over the kitchen and living spaces bring light deep into the plan, and a large masonry chimney provides a sense of domesticity.


RIBA House of the Year 2019 - Winner

HouseLessans 13N

House Lessans has won the RIBA House of the Year 2019.

Chair of the 2019 House of the Year Awards, architect John Pardey, said:

'House Lessans in the rolling countryside of County Down was chosen as the winner as it represents a paradigm in creating relevant contemporary architecture that truly reflects its local context, vernacular and culture.

It has an elegant simplicity achieved within a remarkably low budget without excesses, creating delight in the subtly changing volumes as well as its relationship between the inside and outside.

The house takes the daily business of life and with the architects' skills in making a house from simple materials, carefully detailed and with precise alignments, succeeds in becoming not just a house, but more importantly, a home.'


RIBA House of the Year - Shortlisted

Lessans SL

House Lessans has been shortlisted for RIBA House of the Year 2019.

RIBA House of the Year, formerly the Manser Medal, is awarded to the best example of a one-off house designed by an architect in the UK. The award celebrates excellence and innovation in home design.

Twenty houses were longlisted by the RIBA and have been featuring in Grand Designs: House of the Year on Channel 4. Over four weeks seven houses will be shortlisted for the award - with the final winner announced in Wednesday 13 November's episode.


Rural House

Rural 1Rural site plan 2

A replacement dwelling on the site of a derelict cottage in rural County Down, the plot is a low mound with mature trees, once the shelter for the existing dwelling. Stone walls define some sense of enclosure and definition from both the adjoining open landscape and a neighbouring farm. The brief was for a 2 bedroomed house, with living and entertaining spaces enjoying the long views north and west.

The proposal is developed as a compact plan on one level, with a simple low pitched roof influenced by a local animal shelter. The plan splits into 2, with the front section containing mostly sleeping accommodation sitting precisely on the footprint of the old cottage, and the rear section comprising living spaces in the 'garden' behind. The house adjusts to the slope of the ground, each section opening out to the contour it finds itself on. The asymmetrical profile is heightened by a deep overhang to the rear, and a tall masonry chimney serving fires inside and out confirms the domestic use.

We envisage this as a simple and frugal rendered building with an agricultural corrugated roof. Building as plinth.


Ballynahinch Barn

Black Barn 2 N54Black Barn 1 N2

This frugal structure rests at the intersection of 4 fields just south of Ballynahinch, a small town south of Belfast.

The barn measures approximately 12.5 metres by 9 metres on plan. The longer dimension on the gable. It appears to be a single space inside, there is a single door on the west gable and a door and a permanent opening on the sheltered east side. It is deceptively low. The eaves measures 1.6 metres on the north elevation and 2 metres on the south. The pitched roof is asymmetrical so that there are 2 different length roof slopes from the ridge. The roof pitches are 8 degrees on the short slope to the north and 8.5 degrees on the long one to the south. The walls and roof are clothed in black corrugated tin, and doors are made from discarded timbers. There have been multiple patch repairs, which only add to the interest.

The builder of the shed has made some judgement with regard to the siting and orientation of the barn. Maybe there is some unknown reason for the asymmetry, but it is hard to fathom. The form however follows the topography in a meaningful way, shedding water, reflecting the sloping ground and retaining the lowest possible wall panels. The position of doors are a practical consideration given the weather. There is no plinth, rather the builder of the barn has found the exact contour on which one can enter. The building is the plinth.

The outcome is beautiful. It appears utterly right, economic, functional, assured, and balanced.



Moorpark H

A derelict farmstead set within a grouping of mature trees and hedging located in the hills north of Belfast provides the setting for a small housing development. The sloping site is approached along a narrow laneway which travels through the existing cluster, hidden from the road through a rise in the topography. Mappings indicate that the historical character of the area comprises small groupings of buildings with traditionally scaled plan forms creating enclosure and shelter.

An existing barn and its outbuildings are retained and converted, and a new 2 storey house of simple form is placed in relation to it, both assemblies connected by the extension of their masonry walls creating enclosure, the new orthogonal forms influenced by the memory of the built structures of the farmstead. Tall masonry chimneys will give the forms a sense of domesticity.

Our proposals are concerned with form, memory and views to a nearby reservoir, and also concerned about the long view back, the view from neighbouring and distant farm clusters, and we see the project as a series of long views where silhouette is exalted. The overall project will be read as a series of ridged linear forms stepping down the site, contained within or immediately adjoining the existing mature landscaped enclosure.


Villa, East Belfast


This project comprises the remodelling and extension of a detached villa set in a mature designed garden in east Belfast.

The existing dwelling is stripped back to its original scale and form, and additional spaces are imagined as a 'suite of rooms' which overlap and step into the garden creating terraces and enclosure, and capturing morning and evening light. Support spaces including a family entrance are gathered and connected to the east and north.

The original plan is reorganised, reinstating the entrance sequence and creating a new Stair Room to connect the existing spaces to the new rooms.


Houses Mid Ulster

Coolreaghs 10 non R

4 houses arranged around an elevated courtyard, the initial phase of a larger development on the periphery of Cookstown in mid Ulster.

Historical maps show previous agricultural structures built adjacent to the road, and the proposal continues this rhythm, reaching forward of the established building line and providing a visual bookend to the larger development
The houses are envisaged as simple brick forms, with asymmetrically pitched roofs, referencing a form found in neighbouring buildings. Masonry chimneys are placed on corners and there are roof lights over internal circulation spaces. The gables of each house are predominantly solid, and the compositions of openings within all four dwellings is reflective of traditional dwellings, with an emphasised vertical proportion.

External walls to create enclosure are proposed to private gardens and are also in brick, creating a cohesive design.



Journal Tamnaherin

This project comprises 2 houses for the same extended family as a replacement for an existing house and collection of outbuildings, located in gently sloping land overlooking the Foyle Estuary on the north coast of Ireland.

The geometry is a response to the retained building and the view which is more to the north than the existing orientation, and the forms are expressed as charred timber sheds on masonry walls creating enclosure and shelter. The forms are lifted onto the walls to permit views of the estuary through the houses from the enclosed south gardens.


RIBA Regional Award

HouseLessans 10N

House Lessans has won an RIBA Regional Award alongside an RSUA Design Award at a gala evening hosted by the RSUA at the Ulster Museum. The project also picked up the RSUA House of the Year Award, and the Small Project of the Year Award.

Judge'c citation;

A beautiful new house sits within a carefully orchestrated architectural ensemble formed of an existing barn, a new fore court, a discrete bedroom block with private courtyard and expansive living spaces which look out onto a wonderful green rolling landscape.

The architects have shown remarkable restraint and skill in creating a family home that exudes calm, dignity and generosity. Their skill in editing and making is exemplary. This achievement is all the more remarkable given the overall budget for the project. The house belies any notion that an expensive budget is somehow the gateway to excellence.

It is clear from the resolution and sophistication of an apparently simple architectural language both at a detail and a conceptual level that these architects through their experience and skill continue to find great beauty in the daily routine of living.


AAI Awards

HouseLessans 02 corrected N

House Lessans has received a Special Mention at the 2019 Architectural Association of Ireland Awards.

The AAI Awards are internationally peer reviewed architecture awards involving a distinguished panel of judges. They seek to encourage higher standards of architecture throughout Ireland, to recognise projects that make a contribution to Irish architecture culture, and to inform the public of emerging directions in contemporary architecture.

An exhibition of all the entries is open to the public in the RIAI Architecture Centre on Merrion Square, Dublin, from March 4th - March 15th.


House Lessans

Lessans snow N

This project, a single family house on the remnants of a small farmstead near Saintfield, is nearing completion.
An existing derelict barn establishes a datum for a series of masonry walls creating enclosures and supporting simple metal roofed volumes which reference agricultural forms.

The painted brick walls and stained timber windows are carefully composed to frame the views of the rolling landscape.


Lecture, Queen's University Belfast

Sienna 1NSienna 2NSienna 3N

These images are among the many which we selected to illustrate our recent presentation to the Masters Architecture Course at Queen's University Belfast on Architecture and Photography.
The pictures are 'found' examples of that tension (or taughtness) in composition which interests us and influences our design.

The three photographs were all taken in Siena, Italy.


House Holywood


The project comprises 2 existing terrace seaside houses previously combined into a single family home. Each of the original houses has a modest rear return and the front of the terrace faces north to Belfast Lough.

A new form negotiates the reconfigured returns of the existing houses providing a series of family rooms and outdoor spaces which engage with the private garden to the south. Natural light is captured deep into the plan through a raised volume between the existing parts, retaining the feeling and lightness of the original yard. The existing houses are further opened to reveal views of the lough from the private garden.

Compositional model of the new intervention in card.


House Ballyscullion

Ballyscullion Gable

Gable and tree at Ballyscullion.

This project, a house set within an 18th century part walled demesne in mid-Ulster, is located on the edge of an ancient woodland of oak with views across the classical idealised parkland setting, and is being slowly crafted by its owner.

The project speaks of a developing language within the chronology of the practice, where the arrangement of spaces within the form has led to a particular condition of volume, relating to the thickened wall, the open corner, threshold, and edge, and through this language the project starts to relate to the landscape, framing particular views of this remarkable picturesque setting.

Here the single window is placed on the very edge of the thickened gable, one reveal chamfered to orientate the occupant to a distant view of Lough Beg.


Belfast Design Week


McGonigle McGrath will be presenting some of our work, interests and methodologies as part of Belfast Design Week, at the Ulster Museum on Saturday 04 November 2017.

Image of Maghera House.



Employment 2017 2

We are seeking a talented and experienced individual to join our team.

Candidates should have excellent design and construction detailing skills, strong technical expertise and knowledge of current construction methods and regulations, the ability to coordinate and produce high quality production packages, and experience of leading projects and overseeing delivery of construction projects to a high standard.

Candidates should be highly motivated, and have excellent organisational and communication skills. Proficiency in Autocad and experience of Adobe Creative Suite essential, 3D representation and model making skills an advantage.

Competitive salary commensurate with experience.

Applications including cover letter, resume and portfolio in PDF format by post or to office@mcgoniglemcgrath.com no later than 17 November 2017.


Malone Park Belfast


Work has completed at this project in south Belfast comprising a sensitive restoration of an existing and previously extended 3 storey detached Victorian villa, and 3 interventions to provide improved entrance and support spaces, along with living rooms to connect to the existing mature and private garden.

This is the canopy and family entrance, part of a 2 storey intervention adjacent to the rear corner of the original house.


House South Belfast


Work is nearing completion on this dwelling in south Belfast.

This is a lightwell deep in the plan, which illuminates a ground floor circulation space, a bathroom, and a first floor circulation space, from where the image is taken. The glazed screen reflects a ceiling light behind the camera.


House Ballyscullion

Ballyscullion Progress 1

Progress at Ballyscullion Park.

Flush pointed grey brick walls to the north elevation enclose circulation and service spaces, and natural light is carefully controlled. The patinated zinc roof is precisely set out to coordinate with both roof and wall apertures, and roof windows are flush with the surface of the roof. There are no roof projections.
Grey stained hardwood windows provide glimpses of the ancient woodland between the house and road.



Lunnaigh 7Lunnaigh 6

The Atlantic coast of Donegal is a rugged and often barren glacial landscape of islands, inlets and sounds.
This site is on an exposed headland at Lunniagh, now an existing house in poor condition within a cluster of dwellings and former turf sheds, with coastal views west to the islands of Gola and Inishmeane, and inland east to the Derryveagh Mountains. The owners have a strong connection with the site and with the existing form.

We have been commissioned to design a single dwelling to replace the existing house.


House Belfast Lough

Belfast Lough Render

Front elevation from the Lough


House Belfast Lough

Journal Cultra 1Belfast Lough diagrams

This site for a single dwelling is on the southern shore of Belfast Lough, a natural sea inlet providing shipping access to the Port of Belfast. An existing deep plan garden, its narrow side addresses the road and faces north-west with views of the lough and the Antrim hills beyond.
The plot incorporates a natural steep rise in the local topography.

The project is conceived as a singular linear masonry form, placed perpendicular to the shoreline and against the natural rise in the terrain.
The forms are stepped, eroded and appended to take advantage of natural light and views.


Travels / Offida

Journal Offida 1Journal Offida 2Journal Offida 4

The beautiful church of Santa Maria della Rocca sits on an outcrop above the vineyards which surround the commune of Offida, central Italy.

It is one of the most significant buildings in the whole Marche region. It is a large brickwork construction in Romanesque-Gothic style designed by Albertino in 1330.

The building comprises a tall upper church, a single hall, above a multi-arched crypt chapel. Both chapels are decorated with important frescoes.
Terracotta stairs connect the two churches, the point at which the spiral stair and a straight flight meet is particularly elegantly resolved.

In the earthquake of 30.10.2016, the church suffered serious structural damage.


Open House Belfast 2016

Tedfords OH1Tedfords OH3Tedfords OH4

Interior of Tedford's Sail Loft, Donegal Quay, Belfast.

Constructed between 1760 and 1790, this warehouse once stood adjacent to the dockside and is where ships sails were made. The historic character of the interior of the building remains largely intact.
We have been commissioned to restore and reuse the Sail Loft Building as a new restaurant for Belfast chef Niall McKenna.

The building was part of the Open House Belfast - Architecture & Engineering Festival 2016.


Travels / Istanbul

Journal Istanbul

For more than six centuries the Gate of Salutation has controlled access to the second courtyard of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul: the courtyard in which ambassadors were received and justice dispensed.

In that time the marble threshold has been worn into an undulating almost organic form.


Domes International Review of Architecture

Domes cover

House Maghera featured in Domes International Review of Architecture, issue 03/16.



Journal Tonaghmore 1Journal Tonaghmore Model 1

These simple and typical Ulster outbuildings provide storage and workshop relating to a large period country dwelling about 10 miles south of Belfast. Our practice extended the main dwelling house 17 years ago, and the same owner has now asked us to replace the outbuildings with a new dwelling, connected to the existing dwelling which will be occupied by family members.

The replacement buildings are of the same footprint occupying 2 connected walled enclosures, one arrival courtyard with parking, and one private courtyard off the living spaces.
Forms are inspired by the language of the existing outbuildings, but simplified to 2 elements, connected and skewed in line with the previous geometries. The skew of the smaller block impresses on the gable of the larger one, creating a simple tension in the plan.


RIBA Award


Home from Home BCH has received a 2016 RIBA Northern Ireland Regional Award.

Judge's citation;

One of a series of 'Homes from Home' for this cancer charity. This facility offers the families of children undergoing treatment in the nearby Regional Cancer Centre free accommodation for the duration of the treatment. It also, separately, accommodates the charity's local office. This accomplished restoration and extension is a well detailed and thoughtful project. The collaboration between architect and client is evident. The contemporary expression fits perfectly in the context of the conservation area.

The project, the second in Northern Ireland for CLIC Sargent, also received the RIBA Regional Client of the Year Award.


Liam McCormick Prize / RSUA Design Awards 2016

Maghera RSUA

McGonigle McGrath have been presented with the 2016 Liam McCormick Prize, the most prestigious architectural award from The Royal Society of Ulster Architects, for House Maghera. The award was bestowed at the biennial RSUA Design Awards ceremony in Belfast.

The practice also received RSUA Design Awards for House Maghera, and for Home from Home BCH, for Clic Sargent NI.


AAI Award

Journal AAI 1Journal AAI 2

House Maghera is one of only 5 projects to receive a 2016 Architectural Association of Ireland Award.

The AAI Awards are internationally peer reviewed architecture awards involving a distinguished panel of judges. They seek to encourage higher standards of architecture throughout Ireland, to recognise projects that make a contribution to Irish architecture culture, and to inform the public of emerging directions in contemporary architecture.

The winning projects have been curated into a specially designed exhibition at Dublin Castle, from Saturday 14th to Saturday 28th May.


Belfast International Airport

Journal BIA 1

An ongoing project comprising the radical redesign and expansion of public restroom facilities at Belfast International Airport.

Planning is rigorous and functional, employing access without doors to bright generous restrooms and compartments. Materials are robust and of high inherent architectural quality including bronze, mosaic, terrazzo and corian. A simple cubicle and panel system in dark grey laminate is employed throughout.

The design is characterised by simplicity and careful detailing. Services are precisely co-ordinated with the architecture.


RIBA Regional Awards Shortlist

Journal HFH BCH 1Journal HFH BCH 2

Home from Home BCH has been shortlisted for an RIBA Regional Award.

A thorough refurbishment and extension of a B2 listed townhouse within Queens Conservation Area, to provide the second Home from Home for Clic Sargent in Belfast, and their offices.

The integrity of the listed building is protected, with conservation of period features and details. New additions are distinct and compliment the retained elements.
The Home from Home occupies the retained period building, accessed from the street, and the office is accessed from the lower level mews to the rear. The massing of the added elements comprises a diminishing series of simple blocks which spiral away from the retained building. New elements have carefully proportioned openings and wall thicknesses.


Travels / Japan

Journal Japanese Joinery Nara

Incense holders stacked on an intricately jointed timber table at the Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara.


RIBA House of the Year

Journal Maghera RIBA4

House Maghera has been shortlisted in the RIBA House of the Year 2015 competition.


Hill House

Ballylesson Site 2Ballylesson 3Ballylesson 4

The site is in a small village located about 5 kilometres south of Belfast, on the edge of the Lagan Valley Regional Park, a mosaic of countryside, urban parks, heritage sites, nature reserves and riverside trails. The proposal is for a replacement dwelling and garage to meet the needs of the present owners of the site.

The new dwelling is located within an existing clearing, allowing retention of the mature landscape, and is expressed as 2 brick elements, offset from each other and negotiating the sloping topography. The roofs are formed as a low gull wing along the length of the elements, reflecting both the spirit of the previous dwelling and referencing the surrounding rolling landscape.

The house is orientated as the previous dwelling, presenting its long elevation west to the valley. A third element, the garage, is orientated at right angles to the main dwelling, and comprises a timber structure set within it's own brick walled garden, again in the spirit of the existing arrangement.

The new forms and walled enclosures are arranged with existing hedgerows and landscape to form 3 distinct gardens.

Planning permission has been granted.


Hotel Belfast

Journal HB

This commission is for the re-use and extension of the modernist and recently listed former War Memorial Building in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter to create a bespoke hotel with associated conference and leisure facilities.

Under this proposal, the external fabric of the listed building is restored, windows and screens are renewed in bronze and a new simple concrete canopy is constructed in line with modernist precedent, signalling the public entrance.

The new building is derived from the original, emphasising it's rhythm and proportion, executed in grey brick with concrete expression of floor edge, creating a simple repeated pattern of voids. Where these voids light bedrooms, decorated bronze panels provide the requisite privacy. The use of brick piers as the expression of the vertical structure acknowledges the tradition of structural brick warehouses in Belfast, and references the spirit of the modern movement, handsomely retained in the existing building.

A new brick walled outdoor space completes the composition, and serves as a central garden courtyard providing access to the series of public spaces and rooms within the retained and new buildings. High quality surfaces reflect the rigour of the adjoining elevations, and a single mature tree provides colour.


Travels / Sabbioneta

Journal Sabbioneta 1Journal Sabbioneta 2Journal Sabbioneta 3Journal Sabbioneta 4

The land between Parma in Emilia-Romagna and Mantova in Lombardy is dead flat. The road never rises more than a few metres and only then to cross a railway line or one of the numerous slow moving tributaries of the River Po.
Grain silos and the steeples of churches in distant villages can be seen from miles away.

Rising from this flat marshy land, dramatically and unexpectedly are the defensive walls of Sabbioneta, massive, impressive and almost miraculously intact. They exhibit that precise military engineering aesthetic redolent of Renaissance Italy.

The small city and its walls were constructed between 1554 and 1591 on the instruction of Vespasiano Gonzaga, a visionary Duke who built his own utopia in the marshes.
The complex geometry of the walls, constructed in battered red brick encompasses the entire town, broken only by the two beautiful gates: Porta Imperiale and Porta Vittoria.

Within the walls lies the miniature 'ideal city' of Sabbioneta.


House Drumbo

Drumbo 3

An intervention within an existing rural cluster which responds to the design, massing and materials of the existing dwelling and its outbuildings, and explores the contemporary manifestation of vernacular domestic forms.

Walls extend from the new elements to create yards, and to allow the new elements to nestle into the rising topography. Materials are from a vernacular pallette and are simply detailed , responding to the existing dwelling and to the metal roofs and white walls of the remaining buildings in the cluster behind, and in the fields beyond.

A deep set gable window is placed to one side in the Irish tradition, which along with the strong masonry chimney, seeks to achieve a sense of belonging in the casual nature of the Ulster countryside.

Planning permission has been granted.


Travels / Bergerac

Journal Bergerac

Simple timber shutters close on an abandoned shop within the medieval core of Bergerac, a commune in the Aquitaine region in southwestern France.


War Memorial Building

Journal WMB 2 copyJournal WMB full BW

Card and pencil model of the former War Memorial Building, Waring Street Belfast.

Constructed between 1959 and 1961 to designs by J. Michael Bowley, an English architect practicing largely in Glasgow at that time, this building was the winning entry in an architectural competition for the official permanent War Memorial Building in Northern Ireland, on the site of buildings obliterated during the Belfast Blitz. Although some historic detailing has been lost, the original modular, unembellished character of the Modern Movement has survived.


House Tollymore

Journal Tollymore 5

This project at the foot of the Mourne Mountains has received full planning permission.

Sited on the banks of the Shimna river as it leaves Tollymore Park, the house is organised as a collection of large stones or boulders, placed on a stepped plinth which negotiates the slope of the river bank. The spaces between the stones are linked where the forms touch, through open corners and steps, reflecting the composition of the river boulders below, and allowing external circulation to flow between courtyards to establish the transition between road and river.


Stirling Prize Midlist 2015 - House Maghera


Our project at Maghera features in the final stages of reviews for the UK's most prestigious architecture prize, reaching the midlist of the RIBA Stirling Prize 2015.

The midlist represents the best of the RIBA National Award winners, which are further reviewed for consideration for the RIBA Stirling Prize. The shortlist was announced on 16 July 2015.


Serpentine Pavillion / RIBA National Awards

Journal Serpentine 1

The 2015 Serpentine Pavilion is designed by Spanish architects Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano.
The pavilion is a flimsy thing, colourful and taut, wrapped up with bright ribbon. It is at its best when the low sun shines through it. In the dusk, lit from within, it glows like an amorphous Chinese lantern.
In strong sunlight the opalescent external skin reflects the landscape and the observer.

We visited the pavilion recently for the RIBA National Awards Ceremony.


Open House Belfast 2015

Journal Open House 2

Thank you to all of you who visited us at our studio at Portview Mill on Saturday 18 July 2015 as part of the inaugural Open House Belfast Architectural Festival.

We enjoyed your company; we were impressed by your knowledge of the practice and heartened by your encouragement.


Ballyscullion Site Visit 2

Journal Ballyscullion 9Journal Ballyscullion 2

Brick panels at Ballyscullion.

The bricks are made to order in southern Denmark using the same coal firing process that has been used for more than a century, each brick of unique dimension and hue.

A single mason has carefully selected and placed each of the 35000 bricks used in the first of the two parts of the house. Mortar is flush with the faces of the brick, simply cut and un-tooled. Window openings are deep socketed and the roof is precise zinc sheeting with no edge projections.


Ballyscullion Site Visit 1

Ballyscullion 01bJournal Ballyscullion L1Journal Ballyscullion L2

The part walled demesne of Ballyscullion Park is situated on the western shores of Lough Beg, and was the location chosen in the late Eighteenth Century by Frederick Augustus Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry, for his second palace in the country, the first being at Downhill on the north coast. Commenced in 1787, the original extravagant palace was never completed, and is now denoted by rubble in the woodlands, having been mostly demolished.
It's portico now graces St. George's Church in High Street in Belfast, supposedly it's stones first brought by horse and cart to Lough Neagh, and from there travelled by the first cargo barge to make the journey to Belfast on the new Lagan Canal.

A later house by Sir Charles Lanyon in 1840 now commands the demesne. Built for Admiral Sir Henry Bruce (a younger son of the Rev. Sir Henry Hervey Bruce, an heir of the Bishop) who at the age of 13 had fought at the Battle of Trafalgar and went on to command the British fleet in the Pacific. Ballyscullion Park remained in the possession of the Bruce family for a century before being sold in 1938 to Sir Harry and Lady Mulholland, and shortly afterwards the estate became a World War Two military base, firstly housing British forces, then US Military personnel in training for the D-Day landings in Normandy.

Sir Harry's grandson Richard and his wife Rosalind live in the house today and maintain the property with respect and appreciation for its distinguished and colourful history.

Our Ballyscullion project, a new dwelling in a natural clearing of an ancient woodland of oak, shares the dramatic landscaped demesne with both the Lanyon House, and the ruined palace.


RIBA National Award

Journal Maghera RIBA N

House Maghera has received a 2015 RIBA National Award.

Judge's citation;

This family house is on the edge of a clachan, a small grouping of farmsteads, on the leeward side of the stunning Mourne Mountains in County Down and is composed of two linear traditional building forms that continue the existing settlement pattern; each discrete form being displaced and slightly rotated in relation to its neighbour. The principle of this formal move is simple and also routinely attempted, but the achievement here is in the subtlety and control of the resulting composition: that which might have been the mere consequence of the contingencies of site and fit is here elevated to a taut and charged relationship of form, scale and alignment. Eschewing a naive dependence on the diagram, the two forms are welded together by the extension of roof slopes. The resulting silhouette anchors the house to the ground and fixes it in the landscape with the memorable profile of the Mournes looming in the middle distance. There is real talent and judgment at work here and a deftness of hand that goes far beyond a re-imagined vernacular or the pedantry of formal diagram.

The secondary moves of walls, steps and plinth foreground the building in its immediate environment. The front entrance yard has a cool tension reminiscent of the Mexican architect Luis Barragan, albeit without the colour, and is authentic in its context and meaning. The entrance hall leads to a music room, a trapezoidal volume complete with piano and enclosed by a pair of folding and sliding barn doors. A guest bedroom to the east occupies the end gable of the shorter building form - a wonderful cavernous volume with a large singular window and timber planks for a floor. The longer range of west-facing living rooms with serried overhead bedrooms all gaze outwards at the Mournes, the pattern thwarted by the cantilevered living room corner acting as foil to the linear diagram. In the second living room the diagram is subverted by a tall clerestory window reaching through the first floor to scoop morning east-light into this otherwise west-facing space.

This is a family house providing an empathetic framework of beautiful spaces for its occupants, opportunistically using the site and appropriate technologies to achieve an eminently habitable and sustainable home. The quality of construction is very high, exemplary and demanding detailing executed with evident local skill and obvious pride (who said craft was dead): a credit to architect, client and builder.


Houses Warrenpoint


A new double house composed within an existing arrangement of Georgian terrace, strip garden and mews coach house, located inside the planned street pattern of Warrenpoint. The terrace extends an historic promenade, and looks south-west over Carlingford Lough towards the foothills of the Cooley Mountains. The existing buildings are run-down and have lost a lot of their original detailing and clarity.

The existing dwelling is restored in the spirit of the original terrace, while the remnants of the coach house are conserved with new balanced insertions. New additions are embedded inside the yards and enclosures of the assembly, each relating to an orchard formally planted in the connecting walled garden.


Cast and Crew

Journal Cast Crew

The former Trustee Savings Bank on Queens Road in Belfast's Titanic Quarter is a modest building. It is understated, but its dynamic canopy, flat-roofed form and slit windows are redolent of the 1960's.

For years it was dwarfed by the industrial buildings which surrounded it but now, surplus to the bank's requirements, it sits in relative isolation surrounded by vacant development sites and car parks. The huge yellow cranes of the shipyards, Samson and Goliath, rise behind it, emphasising its unassuming scale.

The building will soon re-open as Cast and Crew, an informal restaurant and the latest addition to the Niall McKenna culinary empire.


RIBA Award


House Maghera has received a 2015 RIBA Northern Ireland Regional Award.

Judge's citation;

This family home, in a small grouping of farmsteads at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, reinterprets the traditional building forms - but manipulated and rotated to produce a formally strong contemporary family home. Two linear forms are brought together by the extension of their roof slopes, producing an assymetrical but balanced silhouette that echoes the line of the mountains beyond.

A stark courtyard defined by low white walls negotiates the move from the public realm to the private. Once inside, voluminous spaces face west to the view, with bedrooms serried above; one large clerestory window in the living room facing east to pull in strong morning light.

Quality of construction is high, with exemplary and demanding detailing carried out with evident skill and pride - the design is a credit to the aspirations of architect, client and builder. The result is a striking, modern family home that is not only comfortable but designed with beautiful spaces internally that serve to frame the stunning views beyond.


Yeats 2015 Architecture Competition

Journal Yeats 1Journal Yeats 2

Rachel Delargy, a Part 3 Architectural Assistant within the practice, has been Highly Commended in the Yeats 2015 Architecture Competition, which received international interest.

Text from her competition entry;

A contemplative space on the Isle of Innisfree.

The construction of the building is derived from the method of building referred to in W.B. Yeats' poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree. A timber frame is inset with clay filled panels, whilst the woven nature of the wattle is expressed in the roof structure where two beams cross to support a folded timber roof.

The building is intended to reflect the musical, almost hypnotic, quality of the poem. The hexameter structure of the first three lines along with the tetrameter form of the final line of each stanza produce a sound akin to a chant. Subtle aspects of construction communicate the form of the verse. Within the space, the ABAB rhyme is suggested by a slight recessing of alternate infill panels, while outside the installation of these panels reveals a proportional system derived from the metre of the poem.

Timber will be treated with an organic paint termed as pine tar. An earth pigment known as purple ochre will be added to the paint and clay of the walls, while the wooden roof will be painted silver grey in order to catch the light from afar. The colour choice, which mirrors the turn in colour of the heather of the surrounding landscape, is intended to evoke the passing of time.


House Tollymore

Journal Tollymore 1Tollymore Site 1

A house on the north bank of the Shimna river at Tollymore Park, one of the foremost eighteenth-century landscaped demesnes in the British Isles, developed from an original deer park and hunting estate created by Lord Limerick following his return from the Grand Tour in the early 1720's.

The house is organised as a collection of large stones or boulders, embedded on the slopes of the bank and each lightly touching another. The spaces between the stones relate to the function and orientation of the spaces within, and these external spaces are linked where the forms touch, through open corners and steps, reflecting the composition of the river boulders below, and allowing external circulation to flow between the courtyards.

The elements are made as robust blocks with openings in wall and roof, retaining a simple approach to form and massing. Openings are generally to the south and west, maintaining a discreet presence to the road, and embracing the river and views on the garden side.


RIBA Awards Regional Shortlist

Journal Maghera RIBA

House Maghera has been shortlisted for an RIBA Regional Award.



QUB Exhibition imageJournal QUB3

The Work of a Small Practice

An exhibition by McGonigle McGrath

This exhibition explores the processes of design and construction of projects including private houses and residential works for the charity Clic Sargent.
Representation through drawings, models, construction information and photography.

David Keir Building
Queen's University
Stranmillis Road
Opening 6pm 12th February 2014 until 13th March 2014


Home from Home BCH

Journal HFH2

A thorough refurbishment and extension of a B2 listed townhouse within Queens Conservation Area, to provide the second Home from Home for Clic Sargent in Belfast, and their offices.

The integrity of the listed building and terrace are protected, with retention and restoration of period features and details.

New additions are distinct, and diminish in scale as they step away from the retained building, creating secluded enclosure and addressing the rear mews.
The new elements are made in brick, simple in form, and have carefully proportioned openings, wall thicknesses and glazing arrangements. Detailing of the roofs in relationship to the walls is crisp and precise.

Work has now commenced on site with an anticipated completion in the Autumn.


Texas / Spring 2014

Journal Texas

A visual essay on the decay of rural Texan towns.

Aidan McGrath's photographic observation now in 'Practice/Photography'.


House Maghera

Journal Maghera 4bw

Pedestrian entrance sequence to initial courtyard at Maghera house.


Killaughy Road

Journal Killaughey 1

A walled garden to the rear of a listed house in Donaghadee provides the context for a new terrace of 4 dwellings.

The entrance from the main road is marked by gateposts which establish a threshold from the street to a reconfigured courtyard contained by the listed house, adjacent outbuildings and new brick walls. From this initial courtyard, there is another threshold to the partially walled rear yard and garden which opens up behind the listed house, and in which the terrace is placed as an object.

There is a careful sequencing of spaces within the project; the initial courtyard, arrival yard, enclosed living rooms and individual gardens are experienced in a progression of scale from that of the town through to the street, yard, house and garden. The essence of enclosure that a traditional walled garden provides is retained through the simple arrangement of the terrace and the order of the spaces within.


Travels / Mogno

Journal Mogno 4Journal Mogno 3Journal Mogno 2

The church of San Giovanni Battista Decollato in the tiny Swiss hamlet of Mogno was built in 1626. In 1986, along with many of the village houses which surrounded it the church was destroyed by an avalanche. A new church, to replace it, was built in 1994.
It is to visit this new church that so many students of architecture follow the torturous road into the mountains above Locarno in Ticino.
The new church of San Giovani Battista by Mario Botta is a beautiful thing: a dazzling geometric composition of black granite and white marble; a testament to the craft of the architect and of the stone mason.

A greater revelation to the visitor to Mogno, perhaps, even than Botta's beautiful chapel, is the consistent, masterful use of stone in the ancient houses which surround the chapel and in the contemporary and recently restored houses scattered among them. Stone is omnipresent in the roofs, the walls and in the paving. The sense of these houses being the product of the mountains in which they are set is inescapable: these buildings might have always been here under the earth, waiting only to be uncovered.


Describing Architecture 2014

DA 02DA 03

Describing Architecture explores how buildings and spaces are designed and documented.
The annual exhibition reveals unseen aspects of architecture as a creative practice, alongside its critical relationship to the visual arts and the work of artists.
The subject of this year's exhibition is 'Memory and Place', and the work considers how a sense of place is registered and recorded in collective and individual memory, and further asks how a narrative of place both real and imagined can develop.

Our exhibit comprises four case studies of dwellings in rural sites in Northern Ireland.

City Assembly House, Dublin, 17 October - 08 November.


James Street South

Journal JSS 1Journal JSS 2

Belfast chef Niall McKenna has been at the forefront of modern cookery in Northern Ireland for over 10 years. We have undertaken a number of restaurant projects for Niall, including James Street South, The Bar & Grill at James Street South, and Hadskis.

Recently, we have completed a refurbishment and complete transformation of his original restaurant, James Street South.


Travels / Ascoli Piceno

Journal Ascoli Piceno 1Journal Ascoli Piceno 4Journal Ascoli Piceno 3

For centuries the great civic and religious buildings of Ascoli Piceno (in Marche in Central Italy) have been built from Travertine Marble, sometimes relieved with a little yellow brick. In many of the gracious town squares both the buildings themselves and the pavements are constructed from this honey coloured stone.
The quarries from which the Travertine is hewn lie in the hills above the city: some of the quarries are visible from the very piazzas in question.

Sculptor Guiliano Guiliani, a son of Ascoli, a son of a stone mason and a friend and collaborator of Mario Botta works in the same material.

Using his father's ancient tools Guiliani Guilliano wrests travertine blocks from the very same quarry face as did his father. From this stone he creates beautiful sculpture. In his hands the material exhibits the same permanence as the medieval architecture but with a fluid quality, a fragility and almost a translucency which is not evident in the historic monuments in the town.


House Lessans

Journal Lessans Cast 1Journal Lessans Cast 2

A composition in cast plaster represents a series of yards and walls creating both internal and external enclosures. Establishing an existing barn wall as a datum, the yard spaces and internal rooms are arranged according to function and topography, creating a series of plinths with inherited or new walls which instil a monolithic quality to the project.

Casting the spaces was a process congruent with the construction of the architecture.


House Maghera

Journal Maghera 1Journal Maghera 2Journal Maghera 3

House Maghera nearing completion.

Photography - Michelle Reuter


Travels / Convent de La Tourette

Journal Tourette 2

The Convent de La Tourette was built between 1953 and 1960 on a hillside near Lyon, and is the last major work of Le Corbusier in France.

The building is evidence of the originality and single mindedness of the architect but more than that it is about the artisan and the integrity of simple, rugged and unadorned construction, which evokes the minimal existence of the Dominican monks who live there.


Tedford's Sail Loft - Interior

Journal Tedfords 1BJournal Tedfords 3AJournal Tedfords 4

Interior of Tedford's Sail Loft, Donegal Quay, Belfast.

Constructed between 1760 and 1790, the interior of the building remains largely intact.
Original massive single piece timber beams span between brick walls supporting thick timber floorboards, marked and patched over time.
Hatchways used for moving materials though the building remain as created. Openings in the external walls and roof are functional for access and ventilation, and only sometimes for light.

We have embarked on a full restoration for re-use of the building.

Photography - Michelle Reuter



Journal BIA

The first civil air traffic began at Aldergrove in 1922 with flights flying newspapers from Chester, and a regular passenger service started in 1933.

Since then Belfast International Airport has undergone many changes and the terminal buildings have been altered and extended beyond recognition.

Later this year we shall undertake a major enhancement of the facilities at the International Arrivals area.


Travels / Santuari de Lluc

Journal Mallorca

Detail of the stair to the Porxets in the Santuari de Lluc monastery.

Founded in the 13th century, the sanctuary is located in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains in north-west Mallorca. The Porxets was built as an extension to the sanctuary to provide lodging for pilgrims with stalls below for their horses.


House Lessans

Journal Lessans 4

A single dwelling on the remnants of a small farmstead near Saintfield.

New elements are arranged in relation to a derelict barn, to create the enclosure associated with vernacular clusters, and to permit connection to the rolling drumlin landscape to the south.

Forms and materiality are derived from the language of local agricultural outbuildings, simple pitched roofs of corrugated steel on masonry walls creating courts and yards, referenced to the datums set by the retained and re-used barn.


Travels / Albi

Journal Albi

Window reveal at Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile, Albi, France.

First built as a fortress begun in 1287 and under construction for 200 years, it is claimed to be the largest brick building in the world.


Travels / Castelnaud

Journal Castelnaud 2

Floor detail in the Artillery Tower, Chateau de Castelnaud, Aquitaine, France.

Construction commenced during the 12th century.


RSUA Design Award

Journal RSUA Award

Home from Home RVH has received a 2014 RSUA Design Award.

Judges Citation
'The sophistication of this entry makes it stand out as an example of the integration of a new use and a new building into an existing streetscape. Respecting all of the language of its surroundings, it makes a clearly contemporary intervention, which serves its brief exceptionally well'.


House at Lessans

Journal Lessans

Enclosure created by the arrangement of outbuildings around simple dwellings, the sheds, barns and walls necessary for agriculture, have long defined the expression of vernacular clusters in Ireland.

This assembly of barn and shed with double yard are the remnants of a small farmstead, the original farmhouse now a neighbouring plot. Approached by an overgrown lane, the enclosure only becomes apparent when at the building, the predominant view from the lane being of the rolling drumlins beyond.

The integration of these remnants and level of enclosure provide a contextual reference for a new single dwelling.


Barn, Lessans

Journal Barn 1Journal Barn 2Journal Barn 3

A derelict agricultural barn at Lessans near Saintfield, functional in design and constructed using the absolute minimum of materials. There is an economy and elegance associated with the steel frame, block walls and corrugated steel, originating from the frugality of farm outbuildings.


House Magherafelt

Journal Magherafelt

This project, on a former pig farm on an unscheduled rath near Magherafelt, has been granted full planning permission. The informally arranged single storey 'barns' are influenced by the animal buildings and yards which occupied the site, of which a single derelict shed remains, and by an earlier dwelling house on the site evident only in historic mappings.
The new barns are constructed throughout using monolithic dark coal fired brick, reflecting the presence of the existing structure, while internal insertions are robustly detailed oak. The rath will be restored.

The project was thoroughly embraced by the planning department as a sensitive approach to a dwelling in this part of rural Ulster.


RIBA Award

Journal HfH 2

Home from Home RVH has received a 2014 RIBA Award.

Intrinsic to the success of this building was the attitude of the client, CLIC Sargent, who shared our aspiration for quality throughout the project.



Journal Portview 3

We have relocated.

B101 Portview
310 Newtownards Road
Belfast BT4 1HE
Northern Ireland

+44(0) 28 9046 0838


Strand Mill Belfast 2

Journal Portview 2

The Castaldi Sosia suspension light is a classic of industrial design, the original product that now has countless imitations.

Founded by Enrico Castaldi in 1938, Ing. Castaldi became specialised in manufacturing industrial, watertight and explosion proof lighting appliances.
The company now produces fixtures that are not ephemeral, expressing through the innovative technical contents and the precise industrial design, ethical and aesthetic values. Fixtures that teach. The design philosophy of the company can be summarized in two simple rules.
Never copy, innovate.

Castaldi Sosia Box fitting at Strand Mill Belfast. Our preparations there are almost complete and we hope to relocate at the end of the month.


House Ballyscullion

Journal Ballyscullion

Construction is progressing at this dwelling within its austere parkland setting.

The dwelling is sited on the edge of one of a number of large tree clumps which form a classical idealised landscape.

A long low window frames a particular view of the landscape of the historic demesne. A concrete frame engages with the corner and permits the view, the modulations of the window free from structural interruption.


Geddis 06

Journal Geddis 06

A single speculative house of modest scale in the garden of its builder.

The plan form is derived from the site geometry and from the constraints of adjoining properties, and the design is an investigation in cost effective construction.
The roof forms relate to the almost casual eaves configurations and inclines evident in simple local vernacular housing and farm buildings.


Home from Home RVH

Journal HfH

This project for the cancer charity CLIC Sargent on Belfast's Falls Road has recently reached completion.

An insertion into a double site within an historic but degraded Victorian terrace, the new building does not mimic architectural devices of the existing terrace, but seeks to build a harmonious relationship by rigorous respect for its core character.

The plan is set back at the rear to create a courtyard. Openings in the masonry skin are deeply recessed to the front elevation offering protection from the busy street, and flush with the robust brick facades to the rear in response to the surprise of the open views of the hills.


Tedford's Sail Loft

Journal Tedfords

Tedfords Ship Chandlers, Sail & Tentmakers, was started by James Tedford in Donaghadee, moving to Donegal Quay in Belfast during the 1850's. Tedford expanded into ship-owning; his ships travelling to South America and the Caribbean.

The warehouse adjacent to the shop was an earlier building, reputed to have been built between 1760 and 1790, and is where ships sails were made. Gable fronted and of plain stucco, it has a projecting roof over hoist doors at first and second floor level which until recently bore a painted ship's figurehead, said to have belonged to one of Tedford's brigantines.
Both shop and sail loft once stood adjacent to the dockside.

The building's interior is uncompromising with no concession to decoration, entering the building one is met with the intoxicating odour of old timber and preservative.

We have recently received a commission to restore and reuse the Sail Loft Building.


Strand Mill Belfast

Journal Portview

Strand Spinning Mill in east Belfast was once the largest flax tow spinning mill in the world, however the steady decline of the UK textile industry forced the mill to close at the end of 1983. The mill was reinvigorated during the 1980's as Portview Trade Centre, providing useable workspaces for small businesses.

B101 is on the first floor, and has fine views north west over saw-tooth industrial roofs and workers terraces towards Belfast dockyards and Blacks Mountain. The memory of the mill remains in the painted brick walls, and in the worn and stained light terracotta floor.

We will be relocating our practice to B101 during March.