In Focus: Architect Alan Jones’ House, Randallstown, Country Antrim

Lisa Raynes

by Lisa Raynes

15/12/2016, in Main Blog

Architect Alan Jones Home, Randalstown, Co Antrim

I was lucky enough to be invited to stay at Alan Jones’s house following my lecture at Queens University, Belfast to 3rd year Architecture students and in the evening to the RSUA.

We drove out from Belfast to the village of Randalstown, County Antrim, in his vintage Saab, the car of choice for any RIBA award winning architect.

Alan’s house is sandwiched within a conservation area, and sits within a crescent of institutional public buildings and spaces. A Masonic Hall, a church hall, a church, a war memorial and garden, him and an Orange Hall. The site was also constrained by a stream and a public sewer.

The site was a former builder’s yard and was filled with rubble following the site investigation and trial holes it was easier to remove the stuff and build a basement, which now houses Alan’s other vintage cars- ( he’s a bit of a collector, but now says he’s a collector of photographs of vintage cars he has owned!)

It’s heavily insulated, exceeding current building regulations. The external walls are made from 200 mm concrete with 175 mm polystyrene insulation on the outside and then cement fibre cladding to the side walls. There are 250 mm concrete to the gable walls, and 300 mm of installation to the roof again, with fibre cement roof tiles.

The building is finished internally with a polished concrete floor throughout the ground floor. Alan tells me that this had to be done on an industrial scale i.e. before any of the internal walls were built as the industrial polisher can only polish large expanses of floor space. Materials internally are kept to minimum with a simple pallet of OCB shuttered concrete, white painted plaster and mosaic tiles and mirror in the bathrooms.

Alan bought the land in 2002 for £55k and moved in in 2006 He designed it himself obviously… The build cost was £245k – you can reclaim the VAT on a new build.

They ( Alan and his wife Laura and 2 kids and 2 dogs) sold their former house to raise the funds, moved into a rented farmhouse for 18months for the duration of the build and got a self build mortgage.

Overall he’s got a stunning four bed house with some spectacular internal spaces, he uses clever detailing –  moving walls, pivoting doors to be able to open and close spaces off to provide either more public facing spaces or private facing spaces. The images speak for themselves.

His house has been published in the Sunday Times, and Grand Designs magazine in architectural publications like Blueprint and Domus, and on Architect  sites like Dezeen

And featured on TV on RTE ‘about the house’

What I loved about the house, was that, 10 years after completion, it is a delightful, warm, cozy family house, with a busy and functional kitchen, a little cluttered with the everyday stuff of real life, two dogs, two grown-up sons, two tortoises, three Christmas trees, two coffee machines. I only saw it at night, so couldn’t see how sunlight played on its beautiful vertical spaces.

But I was wowed by the angles of the entrance halls, and the sneaky bedroom windows. On the delightful upper hallway, with the boys bedrooms magically appearing behind what seem to be storage walls with a dust shelf transforming into a vaulted ceiling! (Dust shelf is a slightly derogatory term for a room with an internal lid – it’s a fantastic architectural detail that heightens the sense of space but also needs a stepladder to dust it once in a while)

Back in the kitchen the wall cupboard seem to hang magically off a glass wall transforming on the other side into a magic dresser facing the dining room. The whole of the ground floor seemed to flow from private space to public space, and you could just imagine crowds of people around the dining table for Christmas and Laura spying on architectural critics down through the slot window in her bedroom down on the entrance hall! It was a pleasure to stay there…..