An Irish Architect in Southern California

Paul McClean is an Irish architect practicing in Southern California.

He grew up in Dublin, sure from the age of four or five that he wanted to be an architect.

“Even at 10 or 11 I was walking around Dublin looking for modern buildings,” he says. “There was a local public library back then, but it wasn’t big and I got through the whole thing pretty quick.”

He came across Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater a year before, and tried to draw it. Then he discovered Le Corbusier and Mies – and went to college and got into California residential design. “It was always about homes,” he says. “I discovered Schindler and the Case Study Homes and Southern California, and that’s what drew me here.”

Now he’s designing nine or 10 modern homes a year. He’s trying to find ways to connect people to the environment around them, thinking of architecture as temporary shelter – and as a way to break down barriers between indoors and outdoors.

His attraction to residential work is about California’s temperate climate – a place where people can be outdoors most of the year. “It’s also about light and manipulation of light,” he says. “And water, to create a different environment, to refresh the space, to look at and reflect the sky, and bounce light off of it.”

He uses steel and glass to connect to the environment, then warmer natural materials like stone and wood to counter them. “A lot of it comes from the client,” he says.

He finds inspiration how his clients live – and how their lives work. “I get them to think about that, and to push beyond that and think about how they interact with each other and how they entertain,” he says. “The architecture kind of flows out of that.”

His goal, he says, is to create the cleanest, simplest most restful environment possible – space that creates respite from distractions, no matter the site. “If you don’t have a view of the ocean, you can still have a view of sky that your eye can wander to,” he says.

His new book from Rizzoli just came is sold out already. Anyone interested in a copy from the second printing can go here.

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