Orkney, also known the Orkney Islands, is a small chain of islands off Scotland's northern tip. The archipelago is known as a remote, cold and isolated part of the UK, with just 21,000 people residing on the collection of 70 islands. The neolithic inhabitants of the world heritage site that is Skara Brae, a 2500 year old village, built their simple stone dwellings partially submerged in the ground, to provide thermal insulation and protection from the storm battered climate. Today, at least for the most part, the buildings remain in tact, prompting UNESCO to protect the site due to its historical importance.
Drawing inspiration from these significant buildings, and incorporating the same principles, is this newly built eco house from Raw Architecture Workshop, a London architectural firm enlisted to complete the project for the young couple. Designing a home that is conscious of the environment, the stunning natural landscape, the topography of the site, and the limited availability to sunlight in such a northern part of the world, were all key considerations for the finished product.
The first thing we notice when viewing the new home from outside is its irregular shape and colour. After much debate, black was chosen as the colour for the exterior, with the finish of the timber giving it an irregular look to match the dark soil, lifeless vegetation of winter, and often stormy skies.
The shape draws inspiration from the mountainous landscape of the islands, and its irregularities mimick the uneven site of the new house itself. At this latitude, the axis of the home is of utmost importance, and this was carefully considered to give the home the aspect seen here. In time, the wild grasses will re-grow around the house, reinforcing the idea of a house built into the hill, rather than on top.
Not only does the chosen aspect maximise the little amount of precious sunlight afforded to this part of the world, but it also gives the best views of the grazing pastures below, and the snow-capped mountain range in the distance. Here we can see the clear distinction between the levels, much like the historic homes of the nearby village. Timber-clad upper floors sits atop a concrete lower floor, which is where we find the main entrance.
The main living spaces have been elevated enough to offer a view, whilst the design still allows easy access the garden from the upper floor; just three steps.
The dark exterior is in stark contrast to the minimal interior, dominated by white and timber. There is a clear distinction in internal arrangement of space and function across the three levels, made clear by changes in light, ceiling heights, materials and scale of spaces. As you move up the birch ply staircase, the spaces become bigger and brighter, with the ceiling height growing and material finish becoming brighter.
Unlike the colour tones, the irregular shape of the exterior continues in the interior, as seen here. Construction of the entire home is low tech and eco conscious, with considerations covering the use of local materials and labour, highly insulated walls, and the addition of an air source heat pump to keep the bitter winters at bay.
The monochrome interior palette is only further enhanced by the mid-winter snow and grey skies, while small decorative touches such as firewood accentuate the ply stairs. No eye-catching elements are present, so not to distract from the view of the the rugged landscape; a key design feature of the new build.
Want to check out another minimal home that embraces its natural surrounds, only this time in a coastal setting? Then take a look at this modern beach shack in Kent.