Ananda, St George’s Avenue, Killiney, South County Dublin

Constructed circa 2008, Ananda is one of Dublin’s most impressive and unusual modern homes.

Ananda’s lands originally formed part of Kenah Hill, one of Dublin’s grandest period homes, and it was Kenah’s former owner, Susan Birrane, who commissioned the house in the year 2000. Considering the tragic house designs witnessed in the 1990’s across Dublin, Ananda offered a refreshingly pleasant modern design. While there have been amendments to the design and layout since, the home’s exterior is largely the same as the original plans, which were designed by Dun Laoghaire architects Cahill O’Brien Associates.

At first, the street-level basement rooms were intended to contain a one-bedroom staff apartment and a 36ft-long indoor swimming pool. The final design is less Celtic Tiger-esque, more family-orientated, featuring an enlarged basement with additional living space and guest suites. In all, there are 7 bedrooms and 5 full bathrooms and thousands of square feet of living space. The majority of living space is contained on the first floor level, and all of these rooms feature walls of glass and open out to an extensive raised lawn, which is contained within the massive granite retaining walls. The engineered lawn is surprisingly flat given the home’s hilly position.

Originally there were only parking bays on St George’s Avenue and planners were opposed to a new driveway being constructed on this side. In 2008, permission was subsequently granted for the sweeping driveway that now rises from St George’s Avenue to meet the original Glenalua Road access. This feature adds a sense of drama to the house and garden, securing its position as one of Dublin’s great show houses. What would have been a relatively expansive, albeit hilly, half acre private garden has been turned into a very public show piece produced seemingly for the pleasure of passersby. The whole property is something of a spectacle – every elevation is interesting and unusual, but in spite of so much of the house being on show it is an incredibly private house. The majority of the outward-facing walls are windowless expanses of granite, making it a veritable granite fortress, while most of the rooms are in fact sun-drenched thanks to their walls of glass facing the totally private raised garden. If the sky-high granite walls weren’t sufficient in giving the house a fortress-like presence, the dozen-or-so security cameras towering above the house on all sides render this house Dublin’s residential Fort Knox.

The house was designed to be eco-friendly, with the entire structure featuring sedum-covered roofs along with various energy-saving technologies, such as solar panels. Geothermal heating was originally proposed, but may or may not have been installed.

While Susan Birrane came up with the concept of Ananda, the plan was actually brought to fruition by the current owners, an Irish-Canadian couple involved in the jewellery trade. They owned a modern mid-terrace, 84 Ailesbury Road, for over ten years, during which time they upgraded and extended the property. The quality of finish was such that it attracted the interest of solicitor Brian O’Donnell and wife Mary Patricia O’Donnell (of nearby Gorse Hill, Vico Road, Killiney), who paid €9.6m for the house at auction in 2006.

The couple paid Birrane an undisclosed sum for the Killiney site in November 2005, however with their own house now sold they were left in limbo given that Ananda would not be finished until well into 2008, if not 2009. They moved to 28 Shrewsbury Road, just a few metres from their original Ailesbury Road home. The Shrewsbury Road property was owned then by businessman Niall O’Farrell, and was therefore likely rented by the couple.

Ananda is truly a modern home of distinction, bringing a taste of Hollywood Hills living to one of Dublin’s most salubrious suburbs. St George’s Avenue and Glenalua Road, both of which Ananda has driveways off, have the potential to become South County Dublin’s modern architectural heart thanks to their prime locations, large plots and jaw-dropping views. In 2010, developer Sebastian Devlin, known for his Shrewsbury Square development, arranged to buy a large portion of the Killiney Grove Nursing Home’s lands further down the street to construct a large modern residence. In 2013, the tech-guru owner of Kenah Hill (across the street) attempted to secure planning permission for an architecturally-interesting circular-shaped house. At the bottom of the street, in the grounds its namesake, Saint George’s, the owners obtained planning permission in 2014 for a 4,000sqft modern house. One of the street’s oldest houses, Hendre, was also demolished in 2006 and replaced with a modern structure. Two other important modern houses, Blue Ridge and Knockbo (aka ‘The Sleeping Giant’) are found up on Glenalua Road, while a number of sites containing underwhelming and small houses will likely be replaced on the road by starchitect-designed modern mansions in coming years if the market continues to recover.