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Independent journal exploring the intersections between material and digital cultures, and broader themes to do with our bodies, labour, and time.
Aims to promote discussion about how technology will reshape ideas around community action, communication, and the arts.


Submit     Contact     Shop     Instagram

Independent journal exploring the intersections between material and digital cultures, and broader themes to do with our bodies, labour, and time.
Aims to promote discussion about how technology will reshape ideas around community action, communication, and the arts.


Sensories of Islay

Vicky Margaroni
Time of Publication : 13:46 - 2/8/22

My project is a Sensory Playground/Meditative Retreat located in Isle of Islay, a small rural island on the SW of Scotland. The Project responds to the different topographies present, with its overarching goal being the achievement of internal peace through the chaotic sounds and visuals of the flora and fauna.

The concept derived from the intersection of two phenomena, one being the presence of anxious thoughts together with the temporary pleasured gained from the slightly self destructive and chaotic acts humans performt in(ie: bite nails, pull hair, etc, etc) and the other being the act of meditation practised in either complete silence or in repetitive noise(ie: rain, waves) and how that in turn also creates a chaotic environment which if treated with respect can also offer peace and pleasure to the individual.

The crossover of these two ideas brings out a project which, in response to nature via architecture, creates environments in which the user's senses either become amplified or deprived. This sensory change constructs a chaotic situation that the individual is able to meditate through to achieve a deeper understanding of one's consciousness and in turn internal peace.

The project is composed of three different building typologies.

1) The introductory space,  a piece of sculptural architecture meant to be used as an abstract depiction of the sensory experiences.

2) Bothy inspired housing located 10-50m away from each of the structures providing accommodation for the users.

3) Five structures used for meditation which manipulate user’s senses.

The retreat is seasonal, running from May to November and can host up to 5 people maximum.

Site plan port Ellen 1:1250 :
Port Ellen is the village closest to the introduction facility which is a point of focus of the retreat.

Location Plan :
The introductory facility is located further up from Port Ellen on an altitude of 65 metres from sea-line. There is a river’s small stream running on its right side. The terrain is rocky with tall grass.


The introductory facility is a sculptural piece of architecture whose obscure qualities allow it to sit comfortably in contrast to the surroundings. This contrast first becomes apparent through the materials and colour schemes. The building is designed as a granite stone plinth topped with a single layer of brick in stacked bond coming together to form a platform for 6 exterior rooms to stand. (Stacked bond is when the bricks are placed directly above one another as opposed to staggered.) The walls for the exterior rooms are 900mm thick brick cavity walls also in a stacked bond to enhance the abstract look of the design.

These 6 rooms are entered from the central void on the plinth. The ceiling covers a small central rectangular area; It is a sheet of aluminium, polished on one side to mirror the sky and blackened on the other to minimise brightness below. Through this dark void the users enter the exterior rooms with a rather prominent feature of having a moongate cut through the outer walls off the rooms’ periphery. The way the moon gates are arranged and cut on the wall are hints which inform the user on how to approach them. EX: the diagonal cuts of the arches inform the user that they should not look through the arch head on but rather turn their bodies in the direction of the cut, this emphasis of direction ties with the locations of the five sensory experiences. A tree is planted in the near distance to further inform the direction in which the participant is supposed to look. Five of the moon gates/arches correspond to the sensory experiences where as the 6th arch points in the general direction of  Port Ellen, the last place of modern comfort the user will experience before their immersion to the rural living this retreat is enforced

On the inside of the plinth there is a small restaurant and a bike shed. The bike shed provides five bikes which are for the users to travel between the introductory facility and the five sensory experiences. The bike routes that I chose bring the user through frequent changes in scenery, introducing fields of green, scapes of rocks, beaches and cliffs, small roads that divide farm lands and roads big enough for trucks to commute between islay’s distilleries, they pass by lakes and river streams and mountainous altitudes, small villages, verdant forests and wide lands of sand which don’t meet the sea. The users are only meant to commute by the bikes provided or by foot. This is not a social space, these are experiences the users are meant to invest in alone for their own personal growth, therefore all interactions are minimised. The exception to this strict antisocial expectation are the times where the users are gathered in the restaurant, this is the only space in the retreat where the users experience comfort and shielding from the harshness of the climate of Islay. With temperatures reaching a maximum of 15C and rain being present for most of the year, the users are completely exposed to nature.

The restaurant is a small space also constructed out of stacked brick. The form of the restaurant is inspired by classical cathedral shapes. The general cross symbol which the design follows has a brick paved squared entrance on the right mirrored by a brick squared room on the left which hosts the W/C for the restaurant. At the top of the cross there is a semicircular ending where the kitchen is placed; the length of the cross is divided in an indoor and outdoor space separated by sliding glass panels. There are two tables which come to form continuations of the brick as if they’re part of the structure of the design. In this space, dead loads become unified with the primary and secondary structures of the entirety of the design.

The tables, kitchen counter, stairs and ramps, the 900 mm brick walls and arches and the stone plinth unite due to the qualities of masonry construction. The granite which the plinth is made of is sourced locally and acts like glue between the architecture and the land. The roof stands separate to the solidity of the design. The roof feels like a flimsy piece of metal that ever so lightly rests on the walls. The aluminium is the only material which is seen only once on the design. Its awkward presence in the landscape although contrasting the nature of all the other materials as well as the organic quality of the design is, funnily enough, the only material which literally reflects the landscape due to its mirror finish - and consequently highlights importance of nature in this scheme.

The shapes of the ramp and stairs are triangular to extend the material of the structure further into the land. The essence of the project starts from the plinth, leaves it from the arches and the slopes of the exits, extends further onto the trees functioning as the eyes' directional guides, following through the cycling routes, and out onto the sensory experiences at the ends of the island.


Around 10-50m away from each of the five structures there is accommodation provided, a dwelling inspired by the typology of a bothy. Bothies are found across the UK in multiple locations and provide temporary shelter for hikers and scavengers. They are small ruins of dwellings which have been restored to accommodate for the most basic needs, first occupied in the early 20th century. They provide refuge from wind and water and the most simplistic structure for a bed, a chair, possibly a table and a fireplace. They contain no bedding or materials of comfort, and lack toilet and kitchen facilities with users having to bury human waste far away from the bothy to avoid water supply contamination. Bothies are usually found in remote areas all around the UK but mostly in Scotland.

The bothy designed for the purpose of this project is one with Shaker inspired interior. Shaker interiors lay at the heart of modern minimalism; The essentials are present to accommodate for a more up to date standard of living with the unique element of having anything that is not in permanent use, such as a stove, hung on the walls. Shaker interiors provide a simple clean look that resists ornamentation. The combination of a 20th Century classic form dwelling reinvented from ruins with the clean minimalist look of shaker interiors provides a comforting but also simple enough concept that is respectful to the building typologies of the context of Islay whilst also accommodating the needs of humans and the simplicity of the retreat.

The bothy includes a small bed with a nightstand, a shelf for clothes, a small table and chair. For the purpose of the users comfor,t as this is the only sheltered space of regular use, a small kitchenette and toilet are included in the facilities. These facilities draw features from the middle ages.  The toilet is a wooden bench with a hole fitting a bucket under. Next to the toilet there is another small hole which holds the sand used to bury human waste. The sink, similarly to the toilet, is a wooden bench with a bowl in it and a simple tap connected to the water source outside. Fulfilling the purpose of a shower is a water collector which collects rain and through the use of a lever lets it fall onto the individual below. For the kitchen the sink functions in the exact same manner. The walls of the bothy have strips of hinges where items like clothing to chairs can be hung. A fireplace is present with kindling provided at the back of the bothy under the roof. Each occupant is expected to cut and shelter kindling for the next.

The bothy is directly related to the five obscure structures allowing for the sensory aspect of my design. The front of the bothy is always facing one of the five structures through a large timber framed window. The front window reaches from around 500mm off the floor to the start of the pitched roof, whereas the window placed by the kitchen has the quality of being one that is uncomfortable to look through when standing. The kitchen table and chair are placed in the exact location to be used as means of looking through that window. The user is envisioned sitting and drinking their coffee or tea, heated by the fireplace, looking through that window, practising daily tasks and meditating before they access the sensory experiences.


There are five sensory experiences located on Islay. Each of the locations of the five sculptures are chosen with regard to a special ‘feature’ that is unique to the location which is then reflected in the nature of the sculpture. The users are expected to confront the climate conditions of the island as they travel to the five sculptures using the bicycles provided and throughout the duration of the meditative process practised during the use of the sculptures. There is no user comfort provided in these spaces nor is it a concern, let alone a priority. The idea of a user being intentionally so exposed to the roughness of the climate is seen as an extension of one's closeness to nature and to one's true form rather than a strict, impractical, disregarding approach to architecture. The core hope of this retreat is maximised exposure to nature and maximised internal gratification.

The five sculptures are named as follows going clockwise with the introductory space acting as a centre:

1. Horizon Observatory
2. Forest Megaphone
3. Geesewatching Tower
4. Echosphere
5. Sound Mirror

They can be grouped into two categories, sensory amplifiers (2,3,5) and sensory deprivers(1,4).

Horizon Observatory :
The use of noise cancelling earplugs in combination with this 4mx4mx4m square space unique for its slim viewport slit is assumed to hold a participant who sits and looks at the horizon, the faint line where the sky meets the sea through the viewport. A very intimate interaction between the two shades of blue and the user who is in constant observation of this interaction with no sound.

Forest Megaphone:
A chair in front of a megaphone sat on for hours by a user who is listening to amplified sounds of the largest forested area on the Isle of Islay.

Geesewatching Tower:
Over 60% of the world's migrating barnacle geese population is gathered in Loch Gorm where the geese watching tower is situated. Thousands of geese producing the most overwhelming of “clucks” and “honks” multiplied across the field of heads and legs in waters. The user stands and observes the intense sounds.

The Sound of Islay is a small strait (a narrow passage of water between two lands) that runs between Isle of Islay and Isle of Jura on the north east side of the island. On the land on the verge of the strait is a corten steel spherical enclosure. Inside the sphere, no light enters and the sweet tame sound of the strait is imagined to echo loudly within the orange space.

Sound Mirror:
Placed by the only cliffs of the island is a sound mirror. A large concrete curve off of which sounds produced by the waves crashing on the cliffs are reflected back into the ocean. The sounds are collapsing on the user, both from the waves on the cliffs and the sound reflected from them.