top of page
La Roche House Belfast Logo White

Over 35 linear metres of display space

set around a beautiful courtyard garden. 

Floor Plan

La Roche House Belfast | Floor Plan

Background

Get latest news & events

Keep up-to-date with upcoming exhibition details, offers and more...

  • Louis Adair Roche was an avant garde architect who worked in Dublin and London, but made his greatest mark in Belfast. His landmark yellow tower at Belfast City Hospital, standing 250 feet high, dominates the city’s skyline and has long divided opinion among its inhabitants. Opened in 1986, its lengthy journey from the drawing board at Munce and Kennedy, where Roche was design partner, led to it being described as ‘the baby born with grey hair’ in a TV report. It remains the fourth highest building in Ireland today *(at time of writing).

     

    Louis Adair Roche was born in Monkstown, Co Cork and boarded for two years at Portora Royal School in Enniskillen. He studied architecture at University College London and practised briefly in Kilkenny and Dublin, but in 1957 he joined the leading Belfast architectural firm Munce & Kennedy. During this period he designed the property at 5A Windsor Avenue North as his family home in Belfast. He became a partner of Munce & Kennedy several years later, selling his radically designed family home in order to pay for his share of the practice. The design of his home featured in the Architect’s Journal in 1962 (images right).

     

    Roche’s somewhat unusual name was to give him difficulty. Mr L.A. Roche on paper often became translated into ‘La Roche’ in speech. Being addressed in a ‘Frenchified’ way was apparently guaranteed to set him off. That flashpoint overcome, he nevertheless became very popular among young architects, who admired his unconventional approach. La Roche House is of course named after him. We hope he would have been honoured by this gesture, and forgive us the blatant Frenchification!

    * some information sourced from Irish News, 2014

    L.A. Roche

  • Modernist houses of this nature are quite rare in Belfast. Tucked in amongst an urban landscape of predominantly red-brick Victorian buildings, it appears almost as if a retro spaceship has landed from another planet. And yet, in the wider context of architectural history, the house style is not especially rare. The design is heavily influenced by the modernist movement that took place in early twentieth century Europe, particularly in the more organic (less metal & machine-orientated) aesthetic of architects such as Arne Jacobsen and, in particular, Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. 

     

    Aalto’s reputation grew in the USA following the critical reception of his design for the Finnish Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair (described by Frank Lloyd Wright as a “work of genius”) and his influence can be seen in the many wonderful examples of midcentury modern homes now prevalent across the West Coast of America in particular. The spatial design of these homes flowed seamlessly to connect living and functional spaces with garden and outdoor recreation. Whilst this approach may seem more conducive to the Californian climate, the current trend in a typical Belfast detached home is to extend to the rear and create a larger kitchen-living experience that connects the family with the garden. 

     

    Architect L.A. Roche achieved this goal in the design of his family home in Belfast, with four connected living spaces wrapping around a private walled garden on split levels. With feature terrazzo marble floors, underfloor heating and floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, the design was ahead of its time, resulting in a prominent feature in the Architect’s Journal in 1962.

     

    The house is one of only two known to have been designed by Louis Adair Roche. The other, Torre Blanca, on the outskirts of Laurelvale in Craigavon, is also a modernist home with a more unique and unconventional design.

    Modernism in Belfast

  • The house was built before we were born, and most likely, will remain standing long after we depart. For the duration of our occupancy, we consider ourselves to be very priviliged custodians of the property. Although not a listed building, our approach to making any necessary renovations has been to respect the original design, and retain its character and original features where possible.

     

    The house has an existing legacy of being shared with the public: Queens University architecture students used to come for a tour of the building, and the previous owners had an eclectic collection of art that people came specifically to enjoy. The current high-street art gallery model is under a lot of strain for various reasons (finance, footfall, online alternatives etc), and so we’re in a fortunate position to be able to offer collaborations with gallerists and curators who wish to show high-quality contemporary art in a stylish domestic setting. 

     

    Just as the building itself draws on the rich history and legacy of modern architecture in the 20th century, so we are excited to show artwork that is inspired by, and builds on, the rich history of modern art in early 20th century Europe and midcentury America. We hope this will involve uncovering local talent, as well as introducing artists from overseas, in order to help broaden the diet of work currently on offer in Belfast. This ambition follows on from the legacy of the Ulster Museum, which during the 1960’s (around the same time this house was built) was buying and introducing some of the best international avant-garde art to Belfast—including works by Bacon, Dubuffet, Frankenthaler, Appel, Vasarely to name a few—(read more).

     

    Further to the artwork on display in La Roche (permanent & temporary collections), we’re excited to offer collaborations for the creative use of the space—film and photography shoots, pop-up events, small group gatherings and seminars can all be catered for. Please get in touch if you'd like to arrange a booking or viewing of the space. We hope you enjoy your time in La Roche as much as we do!

     

    Ross & Emma Cunningham

    Respecting & Sharing

bottom of page