Rural Design Architecture Rona Project Page
The island of Rona sits between the Isle of Skye and the mainland, is mostly accessed from Skye and so is an island off an island off an island, which makes a journey there a wonderful adventure. Its ancient geology is billions of years old and its scarcely hidden rocky crust is a defining character of the island. Vegetation clings to this surface for survival and human habitation is a challenge.
Rona has only two permanent human residents. They approached us to design a new house for their retirement: the new house would, like the existing house, be “off-grid”.
Access to the island is generally a 45 minute trip by small boat from Portree to a sheltered bay where the existing lodge house sits. The new house was to be less visible and so a sloping site alongside a rocky cliff to the north of the bay was chosen.
The design had to work with the existing rock formations while achieving views back across the bay to Skye, and was to be self-built - by one of the island’s two residents - while dealing with the logistics of remoteness.
These challenges were met by setting the house at height, supported on steel stilts of varying height to meet the ground on concrete pads, so minimising excavation and avoiding the need for large scale machinery. Instead the structure was assembled meccano-like from a kit of parts delivered from the mainland.
The house form is angled to suit the views and the rocky contours, and a simple shallow-pitched roof keeps the overall height to a workable scale. The open plan living/kitchen/dining spaces sit to the west of the house enjoying the seaward views and sunsets, and the two bedroom spaces face south/south-east towards the tree canopy and catch the morning sun. Openings on the north elevation frame snapshots of the cliff. The undercroft is mostly kept open with a solid stair-core anchoring it to the rocky surface.
Materials are limited to larch cladding and aluminium roof sheeting, with some masonry at the lower level. An access ramp is dropped in between the house and the cliff towards the back.
This unique project demanded a tailor-made design suited to the challenges of its extraordinary location. We were required to think outside the box on a number of occasions on this project and learned a lot along the way.
Gill Smith, Alan Dickson, Hazel Roe-Bose, Nick Thomson
copyright David Barbour