‘The Noust’ Community Boathouse, Scarinish, Isle of Tiree, Argyll


Building owner/client:

Tiree Maritime Trust

Architect or lead designer:

Tog Studio

Local Authority Area:

Argyll & Bute

Nominating Body:

Tiree Maritime Trust

Project Description

The Noust Boathouse is a community asset of significant architectural merit that has reinvigorated interest and participation in traditional maritime activities on the Isle of Tiree. Tiree Maritime Trust believe ‘The Noust’ should be recognised for the enterprising model which made the project possible; the innovative design solution that responded to the challenges of building in a remote location with an unskilled workforce; and the value which the finished building has delivered for the local community and all those who took part in its construction. Tiree Maritime Trust is a charity that was founded in 2005 to promote Tiree’s significant maritime heritage and support community engagement in traditional sailing, boat building and maintenance activities. For a number of years the we had resorted to storing our two traditional wooden boats that had been donated for community use in unventilated shipping containers as we had no access to better storage and workshop facilities. We urgently needed a space that could accommodate maintenance and restoration works. The boats are wooden clinker-built dipping lugs that are unique to Tiree and are representative of skills and knowledge that have almost disappeared from the island. Unfortunately our ambitions to establish an inspiring purpose-built boathouse facility far outweighed the limited financial resources and volunteer time we had to make the project happen. A new partnership between TMT and Tog Studio finally lead to a model for delivering the boathouse that would make this project viable. Tog Studio is an annual live-build event that teaches enthusiastic architects, engineers and self-builders how buildings are made by providing hands-on site experience and practical tuition on a live construction project. The Noust Boathouse would be delivered in two phases over two Tog Studio summer school events. By working in this way funding support from the Tiree Community Development Trust could be matched with industry sponsorship of this unique training opportunity. To construct a boathouse in a remote location, with an unskilled workforce, over two separate week-long summer schools was a huge challenge. This could only be achieved by employing an innovative design solution that would address all of these factors. By integrating a mix of traditional timber frame construction methods with off-site manufacturing and digital fabrication techniques this became possible. This manifested in a structure that was designed to be robust to resist severe Atlantic winds, lightweight so that the structure could be assembled and lifted by hand, and well finished using computer cut plywood where skilled carpentry would have otherwise been required. The finished 98 square metre building was completed with less than £27K of community funding which was more than matched by generous donations from industry, local sponsors and volunteers. Constructed by 50 student participants from across the UK, and as overseas this project has had an impact that extends far beyond the shores of the island. Since opening in 2014 The Noust Boathouse has been well used, enabling further investment in an on-going community sailing programme which has been successful in introducing sailing to a new generation of islanders.

Supporting Statement

The Tog Studio summer school is the first of its kind in Scotland, offering a multi-disciplinary experience of the construction process. Integrated engineering and architectural design from the onset of this project made the boathouse possible. The decision to build the boathouse in two phases was made to reduce risk and uncertainty for us. In year one a basic storage area was built that would protect the two boats in our ownership. In year two we extended the building to the full size we needed. Using the success of the phase one, we leveraged additional sponsorship for our then tried and tested model for delivering a building. The boathouse is robust, spacious, well ventilated and has ample access to natural daylight. The design consists of a series of ply box portal frames that form a wide-open span inside the building to allow for flexibility of use. The frames are curved on the inside to create a series of arches that reference the structure of an upturned boat. The completed building features a large internal door that separates each phase; this allows ‘messy’ activities (such as sanding) to happen at the same time as ‘clean’ activities (such as gloss painting) to create a multi-functional space. The building’s design references both its purpose as a workspace and the style of Tiree’s vernacular buildings. In particular the building mimics the curved ridge shape of Tiree’s traditional ‘black top’ houses and the style of agricultural buildings, which are nestled down into surrounding landscape. The materials and details chosen were selected for their durability in an exposed maritime environment and their minimal requirement for maintenance. The proportions of the building were designed to best utilise standard sheet sizes to minimise wastage and our transportation costs from the mainland. The precise composite structure was devised to be easy to construct by hand and to get the best performance from indigenous Scottish C16 timber. The structural components were prefabricated off-site, with volunteer input, using digital fabrication equipment to accelerate construction time, improve accuracy and to achieve a high standard of finish with a trainee workforce. As part of the alliance, TMT volunteers secured a neglected brownfield site for the building and formed a concrete foundation for the structure ahead of the event. Both parties engaged with the local community throughout the project. Tog Studio worked with the Community Development Trust’s Youth Worker to host a workshop in Tiree Primary School giving local school children the opportunity to work with architecture & engineering professionals. Members of the community were continually updated on progress through a TMT facebook page and welcomed to visit the site during construction. Without the boathouse our boats would have since deteriorated beyond repair. It is with great pride that I can report that the building is now well used by the community as a teaching space, workshop, meeting place, and even a gig venue! The boathouse project has generated positive publicity about our unique built environment and maritime heritage and raised the island’s profile nationally.