The RIBA President's Medals Student Awards

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Medal Winner 2008
Paul Davis Award -
From fuel production and fertiliser to cosmetics and foodstuffs seaweeds’ versatility makes it a lucrative natural resource. Scotland’s shores host around 20% of the total seaweed biomass in Europe and nearly half of this can be found in the North West coast.

A thriving seaweed industry would revitalise and reinvigorate the area, reconnecting it with its vast coastline, repopulating and diversifying the social mix of its towns and villages while providing much needed opportunities for its young people.

The thesis project focuses on the coastal village of Arisaig which will become a centre for ‘sea vegetable’ cultivation while providing seaweed based facilities for health and leisure. This will establish a flourishing seaweed industry, while providing employment and enjoyment to the people of Arisaig and its visitors, all year round.

The architectural proposal will consist of
an offshore cultivation farm, farmers’ bothy, floating restaurant and new pier
seaweed baths and drying tower.

The seaweed farm complex at Arisaig requires little energy to transform the raw material into a product, the farmers boats will be powered by biodiesel made from unused seaweed, while the cultivation process aids biodiversity by providing nutrients for fish and other marine life.

A policy of energy re-use is also employed in the cultivation rafts where LEDs absorb and store daylight during the day and emit it at night while the drying tower base is home to a series of steam baths which use the energy created during the seaweed drying process.

These elegant, innovative and poetic structures will explore all aspects of this new industry through cultivation, production and consumption while remaining both culturally and visually rooted in their surrounding landscape.

James Tait


James’ beautifully drawn and presented scheme proposes a productive landscape, based on the natural and abundant resource of seaweed, which would transform the coastal communities of the North West Highlands. James’ expansive research allowed him to discover and substantiate the benefits of this unknown resource while ultimately forming the basis of his architectural proposal.

The seaweed farm complex at Arisaig takes us through all aspects of the industry from cultivation to consumption while inventively exploring existing and unprecedented building typologies. Comprising an offshore farm, a bothy, steam baths and restaurant, these elegant structures are functionally arranged to facilitate optimum productivity while remaining proportionate and respectful to their environment.

James draws on traditional coastal forms and textures while remaining thoroughly modern in his approach, creating an architecture that is sensitive and innovative; functional and beautiful. In an age of resource shortage and ecological awareness, James’ proposal provides a real alternative to fishing and migration while creating a landscape of purpose and poetry, all inspired by the humble seaweed.

Dr Jonathan Charley
Mr Alan Pert
• Page Hits: 47364         • Entry Date: 28 July 2008         • Last Update: 14 February 2009