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Cook House

Part 1 Project 2010
Nathan Cunningham
Mackintosh School of Architecture | UK
The Cook House stands within the extraordinary earth rampart remains of Ardoch Roman Fort, Braco, Perthshire. A region recognised for its natural beauty, historic landscape and culture.

The House takes direction from four key elements of the project brief: site, the ideals of cooking, context and 'off-grid' living, with the ambition to celebrate the values of Perthshire’s growing ‘slow food’ culture:

‘To maintain and develop the distinctiveness and characteristics of a place and the surrounding area, whilst meeting the needs of its people: striving to preserve traditional, regional cuisine whilst promoting sustainable farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.’:
‘slow food’, part of the ‘slow’ culture.

With a distinguished and unique landscape, I felt the approach had to be distinguished and unique: so to be recognised against the site, but also to compliment the landscape. Ultimately, the site and the house, form a relationship where both elements work together to meet the needs of its people.

The approach took historic guidance from Ardoch Fort’s principal purpose. When built, the fort housed a signal tower, one of a series of signal towers and forts for the Roman defense boundary- the ‘Gask Ridge'. When alight, the tower would be a beacon: part of a warning strategy for the entire Ridge. With a contextual analysis of contiguous architectural identities, distinctive to Perthshire, the 'tower' house became a focus and offered strategies for spatial organisation, form, materiality and spatial quality, that together, concentrate on developing the distinctive characteristics of the site and the surrounding area.

The tower house becomes a new quality within the landscape: an epicentre embodying the values of ‘slow’ culture and environmental design. Values that are carried throughout the design and demonstrated through honest, practical, clear, secular spaces. Light, texture and view play fundamental roles in transforming the spatial qualities of the house, not only daily but through the changing of the seasons. Ultimately, enriching the quality of life that the house has to offer.

The Cook House is a timeless element that stands as a landmark for a future of sustainable community living.

Nathan Cunningham


The cookhouse in Ardoch Fort prioritises the imperatives of the project brief: context, programme, building typology and the process of understanding and concentrating these to create a sustainable architecture.

Located within the man made landscape of earth ramparts of an ancient Roman fort in Braco - Perthshire, Nathan’s project proposes a broader interpretation of the site, informed by the historical reference to the fort as part of a wider defence network of warning towers known as the Gask Ridge, and a fascination with indigenous building typologies mainly the Tower House.

A robust site strategy involved a
re-instatement of the ramparts as spatial enclosures which define the buildings location and afford a clear structure for the necessary activities of the production of food and the location of livestock. The building becomes the focus as an object in that new landscape. Embedded in this idea of a compact and efficient form is a passive approach to a sustainable building which exploits mass through its structure and form of construction and which priorities human comfort and the importance of natural light and fresh air.

Internally it enjoys a clear sectional hierarchy which encourages the occupants on a journey through the landscape and the controlled textures of the sites plantations and on through the threshold of the building envelope where identity is delivered through a materiality which is responsive to the changing seasons and climate of this particular place.

Appropriately cooking, eating and working spaces are associated with the landscape and the earth. Light and shade define the core, the dining room, and give a sense of protection to the sleeping spaces. The communal gathering space and the library are elevated to receive views of the landscape and the sky, proclaiming the presence of the cookhouse to the landscape beyond.

The project is exemplary in its communication and displays a mature understanding of the technical and theoretical processes of architecture. In the spirit of the brief and its title, the building and its landscape are offered as a sensual textual experience for the inhabitants to ‘linger, savour and touch’.

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