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Changing Patterns of the Landscape: Let the Land Dictate the Architecture

Part 2 Project 2009
Keith McGregor
Mairi Laverty
University of Strathclyde Glasgow UK
The project, “Changing Patterns of the Landscape: let the land dictate the architecture”, based in Durness and Loch Eriboll, North West Sutherland, explores the theme of Architecture and Identity. The work maps patterns, structures, colours and details across the chosen stretch of landscape. The material, presented as a Case Book, combines a mapping exercise with design prompts (taken from local newspapers) to develop a range of design exemplars that reflect and promote the local identity and architectural character of the place.

We are a nation rich in quality materials which are often overlooked by cheaper alternatives rapidly undermining our existing built heritage. Historically the typical highland croft dwelling sourced, gathered and created from what existed on, or in close proximity to where the building was then erected. The Scottish Blackhouse can be described as an icon of remote rural architecture which responds to local conditions and reflects the character and identity of the place.

It was in our interest with the work to look to the natural landscape as a direct influence to the architecture we create. In order to represent such architecture we developed a range of typologies under the following categories: Cultural, Residential, Commercial and Public. Each proposal connects the architecture with its setting, promoting and retaining the unique identities and characteristics of remote Scottish areas whilst exploring ways in which such areas will maintain a sustainable future.

Keith McGregor
Mairi Laverty

Changing Patterns is a sufficiently abstract formulation to puzzle or confuse, but these 2 students rose to the challenge. From the beginning of their exploration of the theme they settled on the idea that an architecture can arise from the materials of the earth: water, wood, stone, clay, and how these exist and are used in the light and spaces of their native locality.

Their exploration and studies were carried out by intelligently and quite beautifully applying their great skills as draughtsmen and model-makers, as well as the clarity of vision that allowed for very thoughtful and meaningful photographic surveys. The result is a broad and deep understanding of the land they propose to build on, and equally as importantly, they developed a methodology that is not a “Design Guide”, but a means of developing a richer and more responsive discourse that other architects coming to work in their chosen area can enter into, modify, and grow. A methodology, moreover that is applicable to more than just the wonderful area of Scotland they have chosen.

Of course the heart of all architecture is the human need for the buildings we make. In this respect the students found an elegant method of generating case studies for their project. By reading stories in the local newspapers they found out needs that could be met by building projects, of varying complexities: a bothy, a craft village, a petrol station, housing. Their responses to these requirements have the quality of simplicity which is only attainable by a deep sensitivity and an equally deep understanding.

The work they have produced is not neo (or any other kind of ) vernacular. It is a modern and thoroughly professional architecture, it shows a passion for sustainability in all senses of that much abused word, and is a fine manifesto for thoughtfulness and care as a motivation for the actions of architects.


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