outer hebrides modular house by koto design
Apr 12, 2023
Located in the Claddach Valley, a small, sparsely populated Scottish township northwest of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides, this modular house looks out over a tidal lagoon fed by the wild North Atlantic. The owners, Ewan (a former Olympian Curler) and his wife Amy Macdonald, embarked on this project to offer their family a generous getaway from their home in Inverness and embrace island life, lay down roots, and adopt the cultural and community-based ideals of life in North Uist.
Koto Design joined forces with construction expert Unnos Systems to bring the owners’ vision to life. Together, they proposed a modular build — a sculptural, minimal house of which the majority of construction would take place in a factory in the Welsh countryside. The building was then shipped in seven prefabricated modules, traveling 570 miles across land and sea to reach their final destination, the remote, other-worldly island of Uist, to be assembled.
all images courtesy of Koto Design
‘Construction on the Island is severely limited by supplies, labor, and a two-hour ferry ride to access the nearest port of Lochmaddy, coupled with the harsh and unpredictable Hebridean weather conditions. A traditional onsite build would be a costly and very time-consuming process,‘ share the architects. ‘Modular or prefabricated is a process of building construction using modules that are pre-built in a factory and then transported and assembled on site. One of the main advantages of modular homes is that the building techniques, coupled with technological developments, allow the designs to become innovative. Central to the concept is how Koto house coexists in harmony with the natural elements inside and out.’
After material procurement with Unnos Systems (see more here), construction kicked off in April 2022 in Wales and was handed over to Ewan and Amy in October 2022, fully furnished and ready to be called home.
The Outer Hebrides modular house merges with its environment modestly and humbly, revealing an individually crafted home with striking forms made from natural materials. ‘The idea has been to embrace the scenery and moving seascape,’ explains the studio. Illustrating that statement are roof pitches that collectively align with the fall of the land, creating a more sympathetic composition; large framed and dramatic windows, with integrated seats covered in textured linens, allowing for a continuous dialogue with the outdoors; cozy nooks create small serene sanctuaries, allowing for hibernation from the ever-shifting, wild weather. Together, these features reconnect inhabitants to the natural rhythms of nature and the passage of time in their daily lives.
The internal spaces are equally matched to the considered exterior form. Thought and design revolve around a deep interest in how the house will be used: muted earthy tones, natural pigments on the walls, timber floors, and natural fabrics provide tactile textures and colors that harmonize with the landscape chosen to harness the beauty of the outdoors. The internal floor area is 206 sqm, with a large amount dedicated to the central living space, a fluid space for family and friends.
Finally, the building takes a fabric-first approach to sustainability with passive house standards of airtightness and insulation, triple glazing, and all-electric heating and water systems. The embodied carbon was a top priority, with all primary structures being constructed from bespoke engineered timber box beams and pumped with cellulose insulation. This provides a robust system to withstand the extreme wind loads in this location but is also uncompromising in its approach to reducing the amount of carbon emitted during the build.
the prefabrciated house was largely built in a factory in the Welsh countryside
Scottish township house Koto Design share the architects here explains the studio