Designed by Michael Scott as a home for himself, he had bought the site by the martello tower at Sandycove some years before, and originally intended it as a site to build a home for his father who was a keen fisherman. He refused it so Scott built a house for himself. The house was named after the valley in County Kerry where his father was born. Scott never had much money, but he had, in the parlance of the day “married well” in 1933 and his wife Patricia had inherited a small amount of money. This was around £5-6000 and was used to buy the site and build the house. He became so enthusiastic about the site that he claimed to have designed the house in one day.
I started one morning at eight o’clock and by 4 o’clock the following morning had finished the initial sketch plans. I was a quick boy in my day.
This was because the eccentric old lady, Mrs Chisholm Cameron from whom he bought the site had sold it on the condition that construction should start within three years. Due to other commitments Scott forgot about this, but then received a letter in the post reminding him of this clause, and so a design had to be rushed out, hence the claim above. The house is sited in an old quarry next to the Forty Foot bathing place and martello tower and seems to rise out of the rock. A public pathway winds its way around the seaward side of the site and so for privacy and protection from the prevailing wind, the building faces towards Dun Laoghaire rather than out to sea. It was one of the first houses built in this country using mass concrete throughout. The concrete is rendered externally and painted white. Using the maritime imagery of the International style, the house is made up of a series of decks, railings and portholes – indeed one end resembles the stern of an ocean liner with a descending series of circular bays and crescent balconies – a motif which also reflects the nearby martello tower and naval defences at the Forty Foot.
I thought of the house as a series of descending circles. each one wider than the other. It’s my tribute to the tower and to James Joyce.
The tower is associated with James Joyce (1882-1941) through the opening passage of Ulysses and now contains the Joyce Museum. This curved bay feature was much used by Scott in this period – being used in his house for Arthur Shields (1934) where the living room is projected out with a curved bay and also at the hospital at Tullamore where a series of curved bays are placed above one another. The flat roof and balconies all command great views over Dublin bay. Original to the aesthetic of its day, it was originally sited on stilts, but over the years the spaces underneath were filled as the family’s needs expanded, but apart from that it remains intact. The house is basically a shallow v-plan embracing the garden with one end rectangular and the other round nosed.