There are all of 10,000 full time residents on the Isle of Skye. It is cool (average high of 60°F in summer) wet and windy. It is hard for anyone to make a living, let alone run an architectural practice, in a place like that.
But Alan Dickson and Gill Smith of Rural Design Architects somehow do, and get a lot of attention for their work. Their about page notes that “Rural Design are committed to a progressive yet sensitive rural architecture. We respond to each client with imagination to deliver a project that achieves social, economical and environmental sustainability.” It shows.
A recent project that popped up on Dezeen (it’s not even on the architects' site yet) is the Fiskavaig Studio, next to the Hen House covered previously on TreeHugger here. It was designed as a rental property for Nicholas Middleton and Kate Prentice, who actually built it themselves. They tell Dezeen:
"It was not to be a small copy of either existing buildings but something that would enhance what we had already built over the last five years and something that would excite us for a hands on self-build.”
Like the Tin House, shown on TreeHugger here, it is designed to be built with few tools by novice builders, and to be cheap, coming in at roughly £1,000 per square metre, or about US$130 per square foot and getting cheaper by the day. The owners explain on their blog:
The Studio was designed for self build, like the Blackhouse [to be covered on TreeHugger shortly], so the techniques require minimal tools and ease of material handling and fabrication on site. The materials are simple, ready to hand, robust and cheap. As buildings have to be strong to withstand the West Coast gales many of the materials are used on farms, crofts, or industrial sheds.
It is a really simple one-bedroom plan of about 300 square feet, but feels much bigger; Middleton tells Dezeen: “Rather than shrink a typical house, the studio starts from the premise of being small and therefore is designed to maximise the available space much as a boat or yacht.”
While it doesn’t get too hot in Skye, it doesn’t get too cold either, and the unit is really well insulated, so they get by with a little wood stove, a heated towel bar and a panel heater that has not yet been needed. And it gets by with a composting toilet, which is unusual in rental properties, people go eeeew.
In fact, it would do very well for a lot of people as a starter home, a retirement home, a secondary unit or a recreational property in North America. It would be perfect for prefabrication. It is a beautiful example of efficient, compact design.