Oranmore Lands is a project to develop land with private housing adjacent to Oranmore Castle at the head of Galway Bay. It is a stunning site and the coastline is ecologically rich. The client owns the castle and the lands. However, the community school requires expansion and a quid pro quo arrangement with other landowners and Galway Council lead to an approach where all can benefit.
The challenge was to overcome the preconception in both the Galway County Council planners’ minds and those of the other owners that the design should be similar to the rash of appalling houses that have disfigured the west coast of Ireland. The field nearest the castle will not be built on, and our concept is to read walls as groynes, to see no reflections from the Galway Road. These groynes will not only be a visual metaphor for breaking waves, in this case the winds, but as shields for privacy. From afar they would be perceived as one from across the Bay, seen against the squared castle in the foreground catching the spray.
We prepared a masterplan for our client’s site and assisted Associated Architects who were responsible for the adjacent housing development to achieve a semblance of integration of the whole area. In April 2008 we agreed with the planning authority and Associated Architect’s client a plan layout, form and massing to allow one application for planning permission to be submitted. The local authority officer then inexplicably changed his mind completely, and the other owners proceeded with their own planning application. We had no doubt whatsoever as to the extremely high quality of our design – in all senses and all scales in this environment – and of the environmental aspirations in the detailed design and functioning of the houses – for which our aim was to set a European exemplar. Our client decided not to proceed.