Architecture studio based in Scotland
March 2021

Smokehouses









        The weathered remains of black houses can be seen throughout the Outer Hebrides. These communities, nestled in the sheltered knolls of peat and gneiss evoke a vague sense of familiarity in us all. Although they’re mostly now seen as an entropic ring of stones, we are often drawn to think of how people lived within them with so little and in such a harsh place. Their way of life was so remote from the mainland’s and the Minch providing a formidable barrier both isolated and preserved their culture. Despite the great distance and the eroding force of time, we feel a familiarity and empathy to these structures which we can relate to. They provide a home within which many stories have been told, laughs laughed, storms sheltered from, good times enjoyed and dark times endured.

Inside the houses the light was almost ecclesiastically dim, with an eternally burning fire of peat in the centre providing a heat and cooking source as well as the smoke which gave these homes their name. Even the smoke was viewed as a valuable resource and the design of the house would encapsulate and absorb it into the fabric of the building. Later they would fertilise their land with the tar covered thatch. The timber frames supporting the heather or marram thatched roof would be a collection of thin timbers which would have been found nearby. The islands had a scant source of wood and often tropical varieties which had traversed the Atlantic would be dragged from the sandy beaches and fashioned into a roof structure. So precious were these materials that often as a family or group moved they would take their roof with them. The hunkered down and rounded form of the black houses provided little for the strong gales to take grasp of and provided the shelter which the people and animals much needed.

The stoic mindset of the Hebridean’s allowed their culture to flourish in a way which perhaps is difficult for us to appreciate. Their song’s would be tragic tales of lost battles and times of hardship in the beautiful yet hard landscape which acted as a constant reminder that it could possibly be worse. Through this struggle, strong and unbreakable family bonds were formed and the proud, rational and uncluttered life suited their senses which led inwardly to satisfaction and fulfilment.


Now in these times we often seek a the same sense of quiet and distance from the ever encroaching modern lifestyle. Physical experience is becoming ever more valuable and the protection and preservation of culture will hopefully strengthen our familiar bonds through time. So we seek to build two smokehouses upon which a definite sense of familiarity which each other, our neighbours and our ancestors is encouraged.

The two smokehouse pavilions are equal and opposite in composition and agenda, reflecting two sides of the narrative; Survival and Celebration. One will be stationary, in harmony with it’s context as a permanent source of shelter and respite. It’s twin will act as a nomadic space of celebration and ritual; exploring various lands throughout Scotland and even further a field, returning when possible. An intimate space, the nomadic twin becomes a symbol of connection whilst being adaptive to many a culture and context. Moving like the roof of a blackhouse, it can be picked up, traveling through lands and offering it’s space for contemplation and reflection. We hope to document, share and encourage each journey, whilst similarly wanting to eventually reunite the structures.



The weathered remains of black houses can be seen throughout the Outer Hebrides. These communities, nestled in the sheltered knolls of peat and gneiss evoke a vague sense of familiarity in us all. Although they’re mostly now seen as an entropic ring of stones, we are often drawn to think of how people lived within them with so little and in such a harsh place. Their way of life was so remote from the mainland’s and the Minch providing a formidable barrier both isolated and preserved their culture. Despite the great distance and the eroding force of time, we feel a familiarity and empathy to these structures which we can relate to. They provide a home within which many stories have been told, laughs laughed, storms sheltered from, good times enjoyed and dark times endured.



Inside the houses the light was almost ecclesiastically dim, with an eternally burning fire of peat in the centre providing a heat and cooking source as well as the smoke which gave these homes their name. Even the smoke was viewed as a valuable resource and the design of the house would encapsulate and absorb it into the fabric of the building. Later they would fertilise their land with the tar covered thatch. The timber frames supporting the heather or marram thatched roof would be a collection of thin timbers which would have been found nearby. The islands had a scant source of wood and often tropical varieties which had traversed the Atlantic would be dragged from the sandy beaches and fashioned into a roof structure. So precious were these materials that often as a family or group moved they would take their roof with them. The hunkered down and rounded form of the black houses provided little for the strong gales to take grasp of and provided the shelter which the people and animals much needed.

The stoic mindset of the Hebridean’s allowed their culture to flourish in a way which perhaps is difficult for us to appreciate. Their song’s would be tragic tales of lost battles and times of hardship in the beautiful yet hard landscape which acted as a constant reminder that it could possibly be worse. Through this struggle, strong and unbreakable family bonds were formed and the proud, rational and uncluttered life suited their senses which led inwardly to satisfaction and fulfilment.




Now in these times we often seek a the same sense of quiet and distance from the ever encroaching modern lifestyle. Physical experience is becoming ever more valuable and the protection and preservation of culture will hopefully strengthen our familiar bonds through time. So we seek to build two smokehouses upon which a definite sense of familiarity which each other, our neighbours and our ancestors is encouraged.

The two smokehouse pavilions are equal and opposite in composition and agenda, reflecting two sides of the narrative; Survival and Celebration. One will be stationary, in harmony with it’s context as a permanent source of shelter and respite. It’s twin will act as a nomadic space of celebration and ritual; exploring various lands throughout Scotland and even further a field, returning when possible. An intimate space, the nomadic twin becomes a symbol of connection whilst being adaptive to many a culture and context. Moving like the roof of a blackhouse, it can be picked up, traveling through lands and offering it’s space for contemplation and reflection. We hope to document, share and encourage each journey, whilst similarly wanting to eventually reunite the structures.







©2021
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