Andrew Doolan Award preview: Quarry Studios
To mark the run-up to the 2022 RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award winner being announced this week, SCN will preview all the shortlisted entries concluding with Quarry Studios in Aberdeenshire designed by Moxon Architects.
Moxon Architects’ own office is a low-lying building, surrounded by thick forest, tucked into the bowl of a former quarry in the Cairngorm National Park. The building combines a studio and café; a private and a public face, with the latter providing valuable amenity to the small community. It is welcoming and accessible, with a layout that is conceptually tied to the landscape. The lightweight building nestles into its site, in harmony, and was designed to support local labour through the promotion of traditional trades and contemporary construction techniques.
Anchored around two concrete monoliths, the principal studio and café buildings of Quarry Studios represent the private and public aspects of practice: encouraging collaboration and concentration and is a response to the growth of the practice in recent years.
The practice describes Quarry Studios as conceptually anchored in the landscape by two main elements; vertical concrete chimneys acting as a counterpoint to the low profile of the roof and a massive timber wall that intersects each volume. Around these, the hybrid steel and timber frame, sheet metal roof and black timber walls are wrapped. Tucked into the bowl of the quarry with the roofline set parallel to the escarpment edge above, the mono-pitch roof to the front of each volume matches the side slopes of the quarry and presents a single-storey covered colonnade towards the centre of the site.
Each internal space has an external counterpart with related characteristics; by turns introverted, expansive, shaded, private or publicly accessible depending on its function. For example, a private office combines with a partial courtyard planted with native shade tolerant species while clerestory glazing connects the studio with its roof terrace, bringing north light deep into the plan and providing views to the top of the quarry bowl and the dramatically elevated surrounding treeline.
The interlocking timber walls that demarcate the building plan are formed from 200 x 200mm Douglas fir sections supplied in 4.8m lengths. The site is located close to several specialist timber yards, which felled and partially seasoned the material locally. The timber was further milled, shaped and planed on-site before being stacked in place using the primary structure of the building as kingposts. These walls organise internal and external areas alike into primary and secondary spaces, allowing a visual continuity between them.
After its original use as a quarry the site was used for several decades as a tip. The project therefore involved the rehabilitation of the landscape surrounding the studio: the safe removal of material; protection of self-seeded silver birch; regrading and modelling of the landform to tie in with the surroundings and the planting of native seedlings and young trees. Specially sourced juniper seedlings have been planted throughout the site as a continuation of the understory in the surrounding woodland, while the roof of the studio directs rainwater into a new bog and wetland area in the centre.
The site treatment represents a practice preoccupation with rewilding the settings of its projects where possible, albeit in this case on a modest scale.
The full shortlist includes:
- Forth Valley College – Falkirk Campus, Falkirk by Reiach and Hall Architects
- High Sunderland, Galashiels by Loader Monteith
- Jedburgh Grammar Campus, Jedburgh by Stallan-Brand Architecture + Design
- Lockerbie Sawmill, Lockerbie by Konishi Gaffney
- Quarry Studios, Aberdeenshire by Moxon Architects
Images by Tim Soar