Shanagarry, East Cork
Size: 145 sq m (1,550 sq ft)
BER: D1 (TBC)
HERE’S one that was prepared earlier- an 1970s-built eco-aware house, reckoned to be the first in Ireland to sport solar panels: it's an early work by one of the world’s most renowned sustainable design architects, William McDonough, described by Time magazine a “Hero for the Planet.”
Set on Old Road, Shangarry in east Cork, this quirky and indeed pioneering one-off home with its south-facing gable wall covered in primitive examples of solar panels, came to market in the same week the world was shaken out of its stupors on the urgency of the need for action on Climate Change, with the planet’s crisis deepening, and both global temperatures and sea levels rising alarmingly.
Set near the Shanagarry potteries long associated with the Pearce family, this distinctive and experimental solar warmed home was built for potter Elizabeth Neave when she was working with pottery founders Philip and Lucy Pearce.
It was done effectively as a student design project by William McDonough, almost half a century ago while he was studying at Yale, aged in his 20s.
Since, his star has risen meteorically; he's considered a guru of sustainable design and the circular economy, getting the Presidential Award for Sustainable Design as far back as 1996, and he’s the author of numerous books and papers, including the seminal tome on sustainability Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things (2002), TED speaker and contributor the Huffington Post.
And, it started out here in Shanagarry.
Tokyo-born and raised in Hong Kong, US-educated architect William McDonough got his fledgling career start in Cork, courtesy of far-seeing potter Elizabeth Neave, who continued to live in this house until she passed away last year, aged in her 90s, leaving her body to medical research at CUH.
It’s quite the global interconnected web, spun around Shangarrry.
Originally born in Sydney, and herself the daughter of an architect Stacey Arthur Neave, Elizabeth Neave first worked in London as a primary school teacher before deciding she’d like to be a potter, despite no formal training.
She threw her lot in with potter Philip Pearce, who’d started his pottery in Shanagarry in 1953 and which continues via his son Stephen, and she became a core member of the pottery team as it grew to quite an enterprise, says her nephew Harry Headley, whose mother Mary was Elizabeth Neave’s sister and who married in Kent in Cork.
He was in Cork this week to oversee the sale of this property, sadly ending a long half-century family link and he recalls decades of happy family visits to his aunt by the East Cork coastline, with sea glimpses from some of the property’s novel, letterbox-like windows and other view points over the marshes.
After she retired from potting with Pearces, his aunt got her own kiln, and did her own work as a hobby, and while she toyed with idea of returning to Australia where she still had family, she was happy to see out her days in Shanagarry, coping well with the multi-layered home created for her by William McDonough, a modern taken on the type of whitewashed Irish cottage she once wanted, but couldn’t find in the area in the 1960s.
Harry Headley thinks his aunt met the young student architect Mc Donough via Simon Pearce (a glassworker) and entrusted him with her home hopes and “he appeared happy to give it a go.2 Still standing sturdily, it’s a simple enough detached c 1,500 sq ft block-built house, with up to three bedrooms and the rooms seemingly spiral upwards through several levels, with floors done in familiar-looking terracotta tiles – the same red fired tiles as seen in nearly every Pearce family property and/or shops.
It’s now ‘of its time’, with plain interiors, simple timber fittings and white painted walls, with a large wood-burning stove installed after damage from an accidental fire in an earlier open fireplace, ironically an example of increased energy efficiency in a design set out 50 years ago, hinting at it designer’s future glittering career in the sustainable design sector.
Within a walk of Shanagarry village, near the sea and beaches, it’s set at the end of a 100 metre long approach avenue, in a rustic setting.
On a split level garden with double car port and glasshouse, this fascinating and indeed pioneering homestead is newly for sale, for the first time ever, with estate agent Der O’Riordan of Barry Auctioneers, who guides at an even €300,000, noting the design connection with McDonough as “a globally-recognised leader in sustainable development and design,” adding “it will attract a lot of interest and is a must-view to appreciate the flow and airy feel of the property.”
And, the solar panels? Well, they worked, and still adorn the walls, but their efficiency levels were low, unsurprisingly given the more primitive levels at the time of what was still an emerging, nascent power source from the sun.
VERDICT: With its gable wall of solar panels, this Cork home showed a way towards more sustainable design that has taken much of a slow-learning planet decades to catch up on.