Architects partner with UNESCO to develop prototype 'satellite visitor centres' for world's remotest heritage sites

by Kim Megson | 23 Aug 2016
The brief has so many elements – the story, the landscape, the climate – and the task of achieving all of them has shaped the project
– Rory Flyn, Dualchas Architects

Two architecture studios hope to show how remote heritage sites can be served by ‘satellite’ visitor centres through their own design for a tourist hub which celebrates an uninhabited Scottish archipelago from a location on a nearby island.

Scottish studio Dualchas Architects and Norway’s Reiulf Ramstad Architects, who are working in the UK for the first time, have unveiled their masterplan for the St Kilda Visitor Centre. They propose the building, known as Iomart Hiort in Gaelic, should be built on the more accessible Isle of Lewis 50 miles away.

St Kilda contains the westernmost islands of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, on the far edge of Europe. It’s dramatic geological formations have seen it named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Small populations of islanders lived across the archipelago for thousands of years, before the last ageing community was evacuated in 1930 following the First World War. The built stone structures they left behind still remain.

The last of the native St Kildans, Rachel Johnson, died in April 2016 at the age of 93.

With the backing of UNESCO, a number of organisations in Scotland have been developing a multi-functional visitor hub that will capture the story of St Kilda and showcase the Hebridean landscape and culture, while regenerating the communities on the surrounding islands.

“We’re trying to show how we can experience and represent World Heritage Sites that are very difficult to access,” architect Rory Flyn, from Dualchas, told CLAD. “Some around the world are in war zones or extreme landscapes and locations, so this is hopefully seen as a prototype project for how you might design a satellite centre.

“We’ve tried to achieve that with the use of local materials and the orientation of the buildings. In fact, the whole form comes from having made existing links with the buildings on St Kilda, which is a very inspirational place. The design has been inspired by the extreme climate and location of the archipelago. The visitor centre will have Its clifftop site with an 80m drop into the sea below and have views in all directions, including of St Kilda.

“The brief has so many elements – the story, the landscape, the climate – and the task of achieving all of them has shaped the project. We’re a large team of people working together, split between London, Glasgow, Skye and Oslo, so that’s an operational challenge too. We’re working hard together towards opening this centre in time for the 90th anniversary of the evacuation in 2020.”

Exhibition design firm Metaphor have designed the content for the museum, which will include exhibition galleries using cutting edge technologies, a digital laboratory and an observation room looking towards St Kilda. The site will also have a cafe and restaurant.

A symposium was held last week to review the design, content and business masterplans for the project, and work is ongoing to achieve funding. VisitScotland, the National Gaelic Arts Agency and the National Trust for Scotland are among the organisations backing the scheme.

See below for a 360 degree video of St Kilda. Drag your mouse around the screen to explore.

St Kilda  Isle of Lewis  Hebrides  Scotland  UNESCO  world heritage  architecture  design  Dualchas Architects  Reiulf Ramstad Architects 
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Two architecture studios hope to show how remote heritage sites can be served by ‘satellite’ visitor centres through their own design for a tourist hub which celebrates an uninhabited Scottish archipelago from a location on a nearby island. Scottish studio Dualchas Architects and Norway’s Reiulf Ramstad Architects, who are working in the UK for the first time, have unveiled their masterplan for the St Kilda Visitor Centre. They propose the
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Scottish studio Dualchas Architects and Norway’s Reiulf Ramstad Architects have collaborated on the design masterplan for the St Kilda visitor centre / Dualchas / RRA
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