In Ireland, a cottage rises from the ruins

A scrupulous and delicate restoration pays homage to the vernacular architecture and the chromatic and material characteristics of the Irish landscape.

Giving new life to a ruined dwelling with that romantic and somewhat nostalgic charm that only ruins of Ruskinian memory possess: this was the objective of Pasparakis Friel, in the restoration project of an 18th century cottage in Donegal.

Situated on the edge of one of Ireland's three glacial fjords, the 12-acre site was originally used to process salt: the main building, the stone walls of the salt workers' cottage and some faint traces of gardens remained from this ancient function, enclosed by a 3m-high wall.

After more than 40 years of neglect the family, who had owned the complex since 1716, decided to repopulate the spaces inhabited for generations and commissionied the architects to restore the ruined cottage.

The intervention, located in an area subject to historical and environmental constraints, was characterised by a delicate and respectful approach to the context, without renouncing a contemporary vocabulary that clearly manifests the process of historical stratification.

Pasparakis Friel, Saltpans Cottage, Rathmullan, Co. Donegal, Ireland 2022. Photo Peter Molloy
Saltpans Cottage, Rathmullan, Co. Donegal, Ireland 2022

The original volume has been restored with the insertion of the gabled roof; the stone wall partitions, of excellent craftsmanship and once plastered, have been consolidated with minute stitching operations based on natural lime mortar and left exposed to maintain the material and chromatic conformity of the building with respect to the stone remains scattered in the area.

The cottage includes the living room, bedroom and a mezzanine, while the space adjacent to the boundary wall, corresponding to a one-storey building of which only the outer walls survived, houses a second bedroom, services and kitchen. Between the two existing buildings stands, serving as a link, the simple new single-storey, fully glazed volume, from which there is a view of the garden.

Pasparakis Friel, Saltpans Cottage, Rathmullan, Co. Donegal, Ireland 2022. Photo Peter Molloy
Saltpans Cottage, Rathmullan, Co. Donegal, Ireland 2022

Inside, simple and natural materials – from the wall coverings in cork panels and lime plaster, to the concrete slab floors – give the rooms an essential and cosy atmosphere, where light filters diffusely through the historic windows and skylights in the roof. 

All the contemporary interventions are marked by distinctive features, such as the fern-green colour that unifies the roofing, fixtures and sheet metalwork and recalls the tones of the surrounding bucolic landscape, where it is not difficult to imagine some member of the “little people” peeping out among the oaks and ruins.

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