Reiulf Ramstad and Dualchas design cliffside visitor centre for Scottish island
Norwegian firm Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter has teamed up with Scottish studio Dualchas Architects to design a seafront visitor centre for an island in Scotland's Outer Hebrides.
The two studios – both specialists in architecture for remote sites – won a competition with their proposal for the St Kilda Centre, which will be built on the island of Lewis, but will offer expansive views of the remote St Kilda archipelago.
Made up of interlocking stone blocks, the building will sit close to the the cliff edge on a stretch of coastline named Geodha Sgoilt.
Floor-to-ceiling windows will be set into the end of each of the vaulted blocks, allowing visitors to take in St Kilda without having to make the journey across the water.
"One of the first things you notice on the site is the wind – it is incredibly exposed," said architect Reiulf Ramstad. "You are also aware of the power of the Atlantic crashing against the dramatic cliffs and stacks."
"The masterplan invites the visitor to experience this strong force of nature, but also to carefully consider how the incredible story of St Kilda can be told in a powerful and coherent way within the design of the building and the exhibition," he added.
St Kilda is one of just a handful of locations globally to be given World Heritage Status for both natural and cultural significance – for its spectacular sea cliffs and marine life, but also its purported two millennia of human occupation.
The visitor centre is expected to boost the local economy and provide a base for researchers looking into how remote communities can be preserved.
"High-quality architecture can be an economic generator in remote rural communities-something both RRA and Dualchas have been committed to in rural Norway and the Scottish Highlands and Islands," said Dualchas director Neil Stephen.
Exhibition spaces within the centre will be designed by London design studio Metaphor to tell the history of St Kilda.
The project is commissioned by community company Ionaid Hiort, and is backed by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and UNESCO. It is hoped the project could become a replicable model for other World Heritage Sites.
St Kilda Centre is the first project in the UK for Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter, whose past works include viewing platforms perched high in the Norwegian mountains. But Dualchas Architects has previously designed several homes on the rugged coastline of Scotland's Isle of Skye.