9 Seapark Road, Holywood, United Kingdom
Neil Mathews Architects

We have re-assessed completely, the ubiquity of this familiar sub-urban form. Our re-modelling of this semi-detached house in leafy Belfast took us back to the fundamentals of a home, in a street, in a place. The perspective view along a road with protrusions for bay windows and indents for flat widows was the beginning of our conversation with the client to make a BIG change. If a street is a wall of bricks and a layer of a town, the individual home is a layer within that. Each a separation further is a layer of privacy with habitable rooms then bedrooms and bathrooms beyond.

Our brief was to achieve what we could in space and enjoyment of the surrounding environment. Make best use of the views to the sea and make improve the lot of the others. How on earth do we improve the lot of the rest of the street when we’re only designing one house?

The space question is first. On the footprint an extension to the rear combined with one to the side will triple the floor area. This small house feels huge now with an open stair forming the start of an intriguing view to the light coming in from the skylight beyond.

The second question is how do we make the most of the view? By pulling the bulk of the building line forward to meet the extent of the front bay window, we grab a direct view of the sea on a street which runs perpendicular to it.

The third phase is how to make the most enjoyment of the surroundings? Over the roof at the rear we have formed a grass roof to walk on. Not all the time but just often enough to maintain the garden and enjoy this unusual privilege in a city.

The fourth question is improving the rest of the street? We have made a tiny thin blade of roof in mirror polished stainless to the front which supported only by a concealed structure in the flush timber door. The frameless glass enclosing the entrance is made of the latest Low Iron product which is almost invisible at first glance.

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