Design Classic: Cork's award-winning Dundanion still holds court

Scheme of 36 houses won RIAI  Housing Medal in 1970
Design Classic: Cork's award-winning Dundanion still holds court
Back to the 1960s.  Looking out from 31, Dundanion Court, Blackrock, Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.

Blackrock Road, Cork city

€325,000

Size: 116 sq m (1,250 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 4

Bathrooms: 1

BER: D1

YOU either like them, or you don’t.

That seems to the verdict with unabashed modernist homes at Cork suburban Dundanion Court: these award-winning time-pieces wear their 1960s design credentials with pride, a bit like never giving up on your flares, beads, kaftans and Peace signs.

Architecturally authentic, Dundanion Court dates back over 50 years now and exactly half a century ago won a RIAI Silver Medal for designer Neil Hegarty, who built the 36 houses in terraces of four and six, in two clusters of 18 units each surrounding  communal courtyards.

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They were cool ‘back in the day,’ although they dipped in popularity for a period, mainly because they could be not just cool, but cold.

Yet, as they come up for resale, they tend to get improved flat roof membranes, double glazing in black frames to match the original single glazing, and get central heating upgrades too.

As many as eight have changed hands in the past decade, at prices which went as low as €136,000, back up to €340,000 and €350,000 more recently.

No 24, in its family owners’ hands for quite a period, came to market in March of this year, just at the start of lockdown, guiding €330,000 with Hegarty Properteries and set right on the main Blackrock Road, practically directly opposite Church Road.

It’s had good viewings, but no offers yet, it’s understood.

Now, with lockdown eased back on and with a currently very active property market in certain segments, along comes No 31 Dundanion Court, and it’s priced at €325,000 by auctioneer Jeremy Murphy.

It might look a bit familiar both to him, and to readers of these pages as the same estate agency also had no 31 for sale back in 2015.

In '15, it got masses of viewings (over 60) and strong biding and sold for €296,000 to a couple who wanted to move to the city from the coast for easy commutes during a study course on UCC.

That need has run its course;  the study paid off, they loved their time in the ‘burbs amid Blackrock village’s many amenities (Blackrock has continued to ratchet up in the desirability stakes) but even after doing their own sensitive works to No 31 and singing Dundanion Court’s praises, they want to go back to the seaside.

So, No 31’s back for sale and Jeremy Murphy guides the well-minded and shining home with ‘60s signature timepieces (and a private garage for the classic car?)  at €325,000.

At €325k,  it’s a walk-in job so, be warned, it may very well get bidding above that when two or  three appreciative viewers give it chase.

Kitchen has a new fit-out, by Kube
Kitchen has a new fit-out, by Kube

Works done since 2015 include a new kitchen, done by Kube; putting in new, high efficiency electric central heating with highly-controllable rads by Fakro Max;  insulating the party walls with neighbours with 100m of high-density board, and insulating the ceilings at both ground and first-floor level, which involved removing the cedar ceiling boards length by length to get the Rockwool insulation snugly into place.

They closed up the chimney, rather than opting for a stove, and the original ‘designer ’ chimneypiece still has its polished limestone hearth and mantle, with polished canopy.

Internally, No 31’s nice and bright, thanks to what effectively a double aspect, east and west, in the main living area and now, too, in the kitchen/diner, after they took down a partition wall here for thru’ front to back views.

The east/morning aspect is overlooking the shared internal courtyard, with its paths and mature trees, and the day the Irish Examiner visited, young children were safely at play, on bikes and up trees.

In contrast, the private space on No 31’s other side is west-facing and enclosed, mature and tidily tended, with gate access from Dundanion Court’s access lane, and the front door (or, is it the back door?) to the kitchen now is full glazed.

Decorwise, the couple here definitely embraced the mid 1900s design vibe, so even though there are some antique pieces, the look is chilled ‘60s, with G-Plan sideboard, occasional tables and a round, retro-style Koby extendable table, sourced from the now disappeared Doran Interiors shop in Cork city.

A hip  touch above the G-Plan sideboard is a wide picture frame holding 14 original Ian Flaming's James Bond paperbacks: it was done by Dermot Lovett, who grew up in Lovetts Restaurant.

Der Lovett  had quite the 1960s vibe going on for a long time, framing original Peguin classics  books, and has hs been upcycling for 25 years or more, mostly in the US. Another Lovett family link here is a framed poster for a  production of Waiting for Godot by Conor Lovett and Judy Hegarty's Gare  St Lazare Beckett production company.

1960s' vibe still holds sway at Cork's Dundaion Court: here, the  owners went with the theme with gusto
1960s' vibe still holds sway at Cork's Dundaion Court: here, the  owners went with the theme with gusto

Art aside, an open tread stairs links up to the first floor, where a feature is the glass partition wall around the landing, and, as ever, in Dundanion Court, the real surprise is how smartly the upper level gets in four bedrooms (two are small doubles and one other’s got an en suite shower room) in an overall floorplan of just 1,250 sq ft. Bathrooms have been upgraded, and one or two bedrooms now have built-ins, while ‘window treatments’ are a mix of vertical blinds, and net curtains.

Net curtains were ubiquitous here in the 1960s and many owners have kept true to this looks ever since, and each courtyard cluster of 18 houses still has some of the original resident still happy in occupation….radio documentary, anyone?

Those keen on getting the low-down on Dundanion Court’s design background will find ready informants, as some recent resales have been to architects and two of architect Neil Hegarty’s sons live here now, having grown up in No 1, on its extra-large site.

Dundanion’s creator, Neil Hegarty built on land leaed here by his family, between the period Dundanion Court (now a private home after a multi-million euro investment: Cork’s finest?) and Carrigduve House.

He first studied at the Cork Crawford School of Architecture, following up with post-gradd tour of modernist buildings in Europe and the US.

Hegarty was a fan of Mies Van der Rohe, and was impressed by Detroit’s Lafayete Park, where landscaping was done by Hilberseimer: in Cork’s Blackrock, the site is far more deeply rooted, with trees on the western boundary going back to Dundanion House’s heyday in the mid 1800s.

Dundanion Court gets a write up with images in Yale University Press’s Art and Architecture of Ireland, and its protective residents’ association structure featured in 2015 in a Trinity College Dublin symposium on 20th century Irish architecture.

VERDICT: Classics,  for specialsits

Blackrock Road, Cork city

€325,000

Size: 116 sq m (1,250 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 4

Bathrooms: 1

BER: D1

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