Sixties architecture at Blackrock's Dundanion Court

There’s a stealthily growing appreciation of Modernist architecture in Ireland, and abroad, and now another chance to buy into an award-winning 1960s housing scheme in Cork’s Blackrock has come along.

New to market this month is 31 Dundanion Court, one of 36 largely identical homes, built around two open courtyards in the late 1960s in a brave, and rare, break from the speculative norm.

They’re classic ‘60s townhouses, with a twist, and a functionality and landscape integration that is as valid now as when conceived back 50 almost years ago.

Dundanion design was by architect Neil Hegarty, done a decade after he enrolled in the first class of the School of Architecture, in the Crawford School of Art, and it came about after he had done a post graduation tour of Modernist buildings in Belgium, the UK and the US.

In particular, he was very influenced by Lafayette Park in Detroit, designed by Mies van der Rohe with Hilberseimer as landscaper, and Dundanion Court shows some deference to Lafayette’s rows of sleek-facaded terraced homes.

Cork’s version, Dundanion Court, was built on leased Hegarty family land between the period homes Carrigduve House and Dundanion House, after the 1850 Cork and Passage Railway line cut the land parcel off from the elegant Dundanion House, whilst many of the original trees were retained within its courtyards, and on the development’s western boundary too.

The cul-de-sac-set houses, mostly grouped in stepped rows of six and four around two distinct courtyards, are flat-roofed, with brick, black-painted cedar and glass facades, have dual access, either from ‘front’ doors in the courtyards, or via rear walled in gardens, with feature half-doors to the kitchens.

All are four-bedroomed, and there s shower/bathroom off the larger of the bedrooms (two are pretty small,) with a separate family bathroom, and a glass partition screens the landing and stairwell. It means light flows - but sound doesn’t.

At ground level, the main living area is open plan and dual aspect, ranged around a central brick chimney, and internal walls are brick, in the main, with some fairface concrete bands, and ceilings are in slender sheets of cedars.

No 31, newly listed with agent Fiona Waldron of Jeremy Murphy & Associates, is a good example of the type - not wholly intact to its original spec, but largely so.

Back in Day One, when sold to ’professional’ families, all houses had net curtains fitted, but down the decades that changed and now there’s a mix of nets, vertical and Venetian blinds and a host more window treatments, and No 31 has vertical blinds, inside relatively new black pvc double glazing, and its owner also recently redid the roof.

In their original state, these houses had underfloor electric heating, as well as open fires with hefty limestone mantles, plus white Carrara marble worktops in the galley kitchens.

No 31’s kitchen has been changed, and heating is electric storage heating mostly: a wood burning stove in the hearth in any sensitive revamp could prove most effective, and could heat the house quite effectively.

Many occupants have put in gas central heating, says engineer and resident Paul Hegarty, a son of Dundanion’s original architect Neil Hegarty who got the 1970 RIAI Silver Medal for Housing for this then-innovative scheme.

The Hegarty family lived in No 1 in the 1970s, and now Paul and another brother have moved back to the scheme, which also is home to several other architects, academics and others who appreciated its attributes and uniqueness.

Blackrock’s Dundanion Court gets a mention, and B&W picture, in the just-published Yale University Press’s Art and Architecture of Ireland tome, and Cork City Council is about to make the entire scheme an Architectural Conservation Area in its 2015 City Development Plan.

Its unusual residents’ association structure is to feature too in a January 23 day-long Trinity College symposium on 20th century architecture.

Sale viewings are just commencing this week at the well-kept No 31, which gets morning courtyard sun, and evening sun in its more private rear garden, graced by camellias.

A buyer could, literally come from almost anywhere, a first buyer, a design-savvy fiend, a modernist with collections of 1960s memorabilia, or a trader-down, with fond 1960s memories.

Despite local authority protection, several have made sensitive changes: one, on the main Blackrock Road, got a low-slung, black-skinned extension discretely into its private garden.

No 31 modestly guided at €165,000, and the most recent sales of Dundanion Court homes show up on the Price Register in the €130/140k bracket.

But, No 1 on a wonderful private quarter acre with centuries’ old beech tree made €285,000 in 2011, and in more recent months the adjacent No 12 (with gas central heating) went ‘sale agreed’ after a bidding spree to €230,000 (€70k over the asking) with Real Estate Alliance O’Donoghue Clarke.

Ms Waldron of Jeremy Murphy & Associates says No 31 Dundanion Court is deceptively spacious and accommodating, with a garage/lock-up nearby for storage, has a lovely garden and is just a couple of minutes’ walk from Blackrock village’s nascent cafe culture, on a bus route, with the Marina and amenity walks on its doorstep.

VERDICT: Time to go a-Courting.


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