Saturday, 24 July 2021

The Machrie Golf Links and Hotel Programme of Works

DesignBox is delighted to announce the completion of a programme of works at the Machrie Golf Links and Hotel, with our appointment as Project Manager. 

The Machrie Hotel set behind the 18th hole on the Links
Photograph: Alan Williams

The Machrie sits on the edge of the Laggan Bay, on the Isle of Islay.  Know as ‘the Queen of the Hebrides’, Islay is the southern most island of the Inner Hebrides.  Islay is famous for its whiskey, its environment, wildlife, and of course golf and hospitality.

The 18 holes of the Machrie Golf links with the Hotel's construction site 
in late 2017

The Machrie includes an 18 hole championship links course set into the pristine dunes next to a SSSI beach. There’s also a ‘Wee Course’ for beginners or golfers looking for a warm up. The four star luxury Hotel managed by Campbell Gray Hotels includes 47 guest rooms, a bar, restaurant and function room, three lounges, a 30 seat cinema, gym, spa, golf shop and an indoor driving range with technical suites and golf lounge. The links course has been thoroughly upgraded by DJ Russell and Edinburgh Landscaping to reclaim the charm of the original Willie Campbell course of 1891.  To support the upkeep and maintenance of the links, the green keeping team now have two maintenance sheds and a series of annexed plant facilities. 

Walking the route for the water mains with Scottish Water 
through peat bog

DesignBox was appointed as project manager in May 2013 to assist with securing consent to connect to the mains water supply from Scottish Water.  Up until this point the Machrie had operated without mains water which was a key factor to the hotel’s closure in 2011 under previous ownership. Consent was granted in 2014 with agreement for a pipe line to connect the hotel to the nearest water mains, 2.9km away.   The work involved easements across four adjacent landowners farms and was critical to unlocking the business viability of the hotel’s business case. 
Simultaneously, DesignBox was also appointed to project manage the construction of a new green keepers shed in 2013.  The original had been destroyed in a storm some time earlier. In developing the project, DesignBox ensured that all service infrastructures were upgraded to future-proof the Machrie for the programme of works to follow.  This included redirecting the overhead mains power supply to the new shed to make space for a new first fairway, upgrading the pole-mounted transformer and power supply to enable the green keeping team to manage their vehicles and plant. A series of buried ducts were installed to enable BT and water connections to the shed and a new HV mains connection to the hotel.  Circulation tracks were managed to make the route to the green keeping facilities as inconspicuous as possible, whilst maximising space for golf play at the same time.  

The Machrie Golf Links Green Keepers Shed

The Client’s vision was to create a world-class Championship Links Course connected to a newly redeveloped four-star hotel, for the enjoyment of local, national and international visitors.  DesignBox was appointed project manager for the hotel redevelopment project in 2015.  This began with a series of enabling works which took place in quick succession to facilitate the hotel’s design and procurement programme, and start on site date.  Enabling works included the removal of asbestos, partial demolition of the existing hotel and temporary refurbishment of 14 existing holiday cottages for use as site workers accommodation during the build.   

The Machrie Hotel at the beginning of construction

DesignBox project managed the design development of the hotel project working for the Client with Hudson Architects (Architects), Peter Young Design(Interior Designers), Morham & Brotchie (Oban) (Quantity Surveyors), David Narro Associates (Glasgow) (Structural Engineers), Hulley & Kirkwood (Glasgow) (MEP Services Engineers), Victoria Jerram (Lighting Designer) and a series of specialist suppliers.   We started on site in September 2016 with Corramore Construction as the main contractor, and reached Practical Completion in September 2018.  With Islay being a west coast Scottish island, logistics, lead in times, availability of specialist trades, working weather windows and accommodation were key challenges we worked on as a team to ensure progress, in addition to the normal challenges of project management.  We were a robustly positive team and always maintained progress. 
In addition to the main contract of the Hotel’s construction, DesignBox project managed the logistics to bring all the FF&E and OS&E to the Machrie, new phone connections to the hotel, a new BT data fibre connection from Port Ellen 6.5km away, and the demolition of 10 of the remaining cottages after they were vacated by the site team.  

Inspecting the contents of the trailers

Because Islay is a relatively remote location, anything required off the Island can take time to arrive.  The Machrie sought to overcome this by equipping themselves with all the key machinery, facilities, plant and skilled people required to make them self sufficient.

Vehicle work at the Machrie maintenance shed

Following the opening of the newly redeveloped hotel, DesignBox was appointed to project manage a new vehicle shed for the green keeping team which completed in 2020 and the resurfacing of their 1.3km approach road to the Hotel which completed in 2021, staged either side of lockdown.  

The new vehicle shed tucked behind the maintenance shed

The Machrie Golf Links and Hotel is a very special destination and these projects occupy a very special place in the DesignBox portfolio. The regeneration of the Machrie’s Hotel and Golf Links marks a most incredible transformation which is all to the credit of the Client’s vision and attention to detail.  I am sure the Machrie will have a wonderful summer season this year and I hope there might be another opportunity to work for the Machrie again in the future. 

Evening at the newly redeveloped Machrie Hotel
Photograph - Alan Williams


Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Tube-Hub



Transport For London (TFL) are looking for ideas to add value to some of their tube station car parks. Our response is Tube Hub; a heterogeneous network of street markets, connected and empowered by the TFL tube network. 

With a focus on local speciality trades, crafts and businesses, each market in the Tube Hub network can be a place to buy a passing coffee, drop off dry cleaning, meet work mates for lunch, rent a work station for a day, or meet friends for an evening event.  


The tube network raises the profile of the markets, facilitating access with passing trade from commuters or as a specific destination for visitors. 


We have been living our lockdown lives with ever more reliance on online services, often through a small number of well-established companies.  Progressive technologies allow us to operate without geographical base, supported by logistics that brings stuff to your door. 


It seems long ago that we knew our local high street and the small family businesses which populated it. We have moved towards a more anonymous relationship with our community. 


Tube Hub seeks to re-address this, re-uniting communities with the wealth of services in their area, supported by the robust TFL transport system, which encourages people beyond their doors and brings everyone together!  


2020 and 2021 so far have been long periods of lockdown. With restrictions thankfully easing we now have the opportunity to take back some ground on how we connect with our communities and the wealth of opportunities it offers...and enjoy life.


Friday, 26 February 2021

Playground Design Challenge

Playgrounds are an important part of childhood.  Play, exercise, seeing friends and having fun all happen in our playgrounds.  In these days of lock-down, playground facilities have never been more important for the mental and physical wellbeing of our children.  

But have you noticed that playgrounds are for kids, but have been designed by adults?  What do they know?!?  With Furzedown Primary School in London SW17 we set an design challenge for KS2 pupils (years 3 to 6, i.e. 8 to 11 year olds) to re-imagine their perfect playground: A space for kids, designed by kids.

This lock-down challenge was sent out to the kids with the following simple rules:

  • No adults allowed: Grown-ups were not allowed to influence the design.  Kid-power protocols govern!
  • There's no such thing as a bad idea.  Take your extreme, and push it to the extreme!
  • Your ideas matter.  Don't doubt your abilities.
  • Keep playing with your designs, with drawings, using colour, making models, even attempting prototypes.  See what the different media and scales influence your designs.  
Additional notes to the brief included consideration of space, place, weather, inclusivity and activities.  There were some thoughts on presentation, narrative and naming their projects too.  

Playground Challenge Brief

Playground Challenge Ideas

Over the February half term the kids set to work on their proposals.  The results were varied and exciting, and demonstrated a freedom of thought and individuality of ideas.  

Years 3 to 6 tackle the Playground Challenge!

In addition to making a novel response to the design challenge, the kids ideas often reflect personal interests and activities of value to them.   It has proven a very productive exercise which we hope we can develop and progress in future workshops once lock-down restrictions lift.  

Education note: The purpose of this design workshop is to demonstrate that we are all stakeholders in our surroundings.  Where spaces directly affect us, we can have the confidence to assess what we require, what would make a positive difference and what would make them special.  The views of children are no less important here.  In fact their input can carry a lot of value because their thoughts are often less affected by preconceptions of what should be, and they represent tomorrow's generation of grown-ups.

Saturday, 6 February 2021

One Sheet of Paper

 One sheet of paper

One sheet of paper is a very powerful tool.  It can be the vehicle to start any imaginative journey into design.  The opportunities for working with it are huge, and the feedback it gives to your eyes, hands and brain are invaluable for understanding 3D space as well as developing fine motor skills.  

The use of paper for experimenting with design is very important, especially for younger children.  It helps the mind to understand 3D space and form, and to enable the mind to comprehend objects in space.  This is a learnt skill which we tend to lose as we grow up.  Our world is dominated with straight lines, flat planes, vertical walls and standardised doors and windows.  As we grow up we become more and more used to these simplistic conventions.  There's a kind of dumbing down of our 3D cognitive skills.  Professional designers sit in orthogonal rooms and operate 3D computer software to solve spacial design issues which our minds are losing a grasp of.  Neither the mind nor the fingers are being exercised as they could be as a designer.  

But it starts with only one sheet of paper; a very accessible resource.  Take a scrap sheet of A4 and before tossing it in to the recycling bin, try giving it a couple of folds.  What does it give back?  Has something been created that you need to turn in your hands to comprehend? What space does it offer?  Placed on a table, what scale would a person need to be to occupy it?  Bring your eyes down to the level you would be, if you were that scale.  What is the light like?  How do the spaces feel?  How would you scale this up to make a full size structure?  Where would you site it and what would it be used for?  Suddenly you're on an Architectural adventure.

The list of examples below are techniques for manipulating paper which we have used in School creative design workshops.  It's a toolbox methods that can be used to investigate and progress architectural design ideas.  

Folding

Folding is possibly the simplest process to start with.  It can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, and its reversible.  Adding a few folds to a sheet of paper quickly transforms the material from being an unremarkable object to something that challenges our comprehension.  

Cutting

Cutting is a one-way process in the sense that it is irreversible, unlike folding.  Cutting allows different shapes and forms to be created and geometries managed with polyhedron nets or allowing flexibility in the material which was not possible before the cut.  

Adding

Adding allows paper components to be combined to make a new form or structure.   These can either be as structural rods created from rolled paper, geometric shapes combined as panels, or with folded forms added together to make larger structures such as with modular origami.  Assemblies can have fixed or flexible junctions.  As a result, the forms created can be static or flexible.  

Slotting

Slotting components together allows three dimensional assemblies to be created which can be disassembled and recreated in different geometric arrangements.  Having folds and slots at angles quickly challenges our abilities to mentally keep track of the forms that emerge, and can create some exciting results.

Drawing

Lets not forget that paper is ideal for drawing.  In our design workshops we always like to challenge our students further by inviting them to represent their 3D creations with Architectural drawings and how they would work at full-scale.  These include plans, sections, elevations, axonometrics, perspectives and free-hand explanatory diagrams.  

Fabricating

With designs developing, our workshops often investigate how the the proposals will transform with different materials, to experiment with colours, light, translucency, and the meanings and values  associated with different material surfaces.   We often look at different structural solutions, because materials perform differently to paper and card.  Here, white card models start to transform in to more complete design proposals with these extra dimensions added. 

Scaling 

Given the opportunity we love to attempt scaling some proposals up to full scale.  It enables the students to realise their creations and experience how they will work in reality.  Paper sheets and rods generally transfer into card or correx sheets and card roll centers from rolls of carpet, fixed with cable ties, rope or nuts and bolts.  

The journey of a humble sheet of scrap A4 paper to an individual and unique creation in form, space and geometry can be extraordinary.  To practice our drawing skills we're encouraged to sketch for ten minutes each day.  To practice our spacial design skills we should likewise play with those waste sheets of A4 paper before they get sent to the recycling bin.  

Credits

The work shown above was carried out in workshops at Furzedown Primary School and Graveney School in London and Hampton School in Middlesex.

For inspiration and technical reference, a lot of credit is due to Paul Jackson, David Mitchell, Tomoko Fuse, Paul Johnson, Josef AlbersJunichi Yananose and many other paper engineers.

Friday, 20 November 2020

Pegboard Kitchen


Pegboard panels are a very versatile way to transform a space.  Here we took a small kitchen in a holiday let and gave it new life as a fun, playful space.  The same ply was used on the base unit fronts, with pegboard accessories used as handles.  A variety of lighting compensates for the lack of direct natural light.  Happy cooking!!



Pegboard and by Kreis Design
Installation by Steven Shaddick Building & Maintenance



Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Regenerating Scotswood

Trans on Scotswood Road. On one side are shops and houses. 

On the other side are the railway line, river and the factories 

of Vickers, Armstrong’s for shells and tanks.


I uncovered this note from my late Dad describing life as a young child in the Scotswood area of Newcastle in the late 1930’s.  The area was adapting to rehousing, changing communities and social engineering.  Although this was more than 80 years ago I believe many of the expectations and aspirations of the residents are still of value today.


The Scotswood area started to the west of the Central Station and Scotswood Road ran along side the River Tyne until it reached the Scotswood Bridge.  It was a long road that I remember walking when we visited my Aunt’s house.  It was long, busy, black sooted but had some good shops and lots of pubs.  My Aunt lived in the back to back houses that stretched from the Scotswood Road up to the steep banks of the Tyne towards Elswick and Benwell.  Elswick, Benwell, and a bit further up the bank, Wingrove and Stanhope Street were a bit posher than the areas of Scotswood.  However, some of the houses in Scotswood dated back to early Victorian times and boasted cellars, an imposing entrance up a number of stairs, big windows and big rooms.  My Aunt by comparison lived in a small ground floor flat with a living room, a kitchen and two bedrooms.  There was no bathroom; the lavatory was in the back yard next to the coal house.  Lighting was by gas and in the evening the lamps hissed above the general conversation.  My cousins were noisy and street-wise.  They had black hair like their father and were dark skinned.  Uncle John was fierce and tough and stood no nonsense from the neighbours but was always ready to help if there was anyone in trouble.  He was a great union man and capable of nicking anything left lying about.  Scotswood was a bit like my Uncle John; tough, without airs and graces, fierce in defence of his beliefs and a bit suspect when it came to living by the law of the land.  


My family was moved by Newcastle Council from Elswick and with other families from Scotswood were given new homes on the Blakelaw estate next to the northern parts of the Town Moor.  The house had an upstairs and downstairs, a living room, scullery with a pantry, three bedrooms and a bathroom.  It had a garden at the front and at the back which were roughly marked out by wooden posts and wire.  It was 1938 and we had electricity!  All of our neighbours were new to us. None of us had moved with people they had lived closely with in Scotswood.  We were from the Elswick area, top of the West Road bank from Newcastle’s Snow Street.  We thought we would know some of our new neighbours but we didn’t. We were a new community that had to get along with each other in our cul-de-sac of houses in Murrayfield Road.  We were a motley lot.  Some found adjusting to the new houses very hard.  Our immediate neighbour was a rag and bone man.  He housed his horse in the scullery until the Council found out.  Bugs from the heaps of old clothing he piled up outside his back door began crawling along the back walls of the houses.  I had never seen bugs like those before.  Adjusting to having a front and a back garden was a novelty for the residents.  Agreeing the extent of each patch and keeping them cultivated and tidy became a new focus of communal attention and  contention.  Another change was the lack of shops.  A lean-to hut and a house converted into a shop were the only facilities for the whole estate.  These were located at the far end of the busy Portland Road which was a hike for both adults and children.  A Co-Op existed even further away in Cowgate.  We attended Cowgate School near Fenham which was another hike each day. The Council improved housing but neglected community amenities in their plan, especially for the kids. 


The Moor was a great boon for us.  Its space and freedom were something novel, and we enjoyed it.  As a gang, the children of Murrayfield Road discovered that over the Moor, in the South Gosforth ‘posh’ houses, there was a small park with swings and a slide.  We trecked there for a while and enjoyed the playground until we were chased off by the South Gosforth residents.  Acceptance of the community did not come easily, after all they had come from Scotswood!  Even on public transport there was a separation social groups.  The No. 4 bus to the centre of Newcastle was always crowded.  The No. 5 service to Newcastle ran on the same route but the closest stop was outside Blakelaw which missed out our estate. You paid more on this bus and it was used by people from Ponteland and Darras Hall.  


Newcastle Council were recognising that they had to address the amenities of our estate when the war came along and all plans were shelved for 5 yeas.  Apart from a new primary school, change was slow.  The community had gelled well but self help was expected. 


Later, in the 1950s, more people from the Scotswood were decanted in to the Montague Estate and Denton area and the new residents seemed to experience similar issues of cultural  change as us.  Money was scarce, the post-war years were lean and Newcastle council at that time was not really tuned to think of community assets to attract residents to the area.  


The original community of Scotswood was tough.  It was not always pretty, but it was alive and vital.  Planning and action by the Council tied to breathe life in to the Scotswood community with improved housing, but also in the process, a re-engineered community culture and controlled social hierarchy.  I wonder how much of what they delivered to this community was working for the community’s benefit.  

July 2007


Friday, 16 October 2020

Finding Form: Using Paper to Realise Architectural Ideas

Working regularly with children and school groups running architectural workshops, I use techniques on paper folding and paper engineering.  The work involves investigating design in 3D to help develop spatial cognitive skills. Folding paper and card helps develop children’s dexterity and the fine motor skills in their hands, which is something easily neglected with the use of iPads and games consoles. The workshops regularly take the children’s design ideas and scale them up to full size with large-format corrugated card and plastic, so the students can experience their creations full-scale.

Products of a design workshop in the Design Technology 
department of Graveney School, London SW17


I think working with paper in this way identifies a gap in the architectural work-flow for professionals as well as being a study focus for school workshops.  Architects don't really play with paper and card to test 3D ideas.  Too often it’s done through 2D or 3D computer models.  UCL's 'Fabricate 2020' conference this year addressed a wealth of computer technologies, parametric software, rapid prototyping and CAD-driven machinery.   Foster & Partners are also investing significantly into large-format 3D printing.  We're handing over our creativity to AI.  The human brain and hands are more sophisticated and articulate than any software or machinery.  A goal of this post is to encourage architects to ‘play’ with paper and card more freely.

Play is the highest form of research - Albert Einstein


I normally work with school students in local authority schools where resources are limited.  Simple paper and card is hugely effective and gets quick results.  I aim to 'lead' the workshops with examples and pre-made kits but the emphasis is on experimentation and play.  It’s not long before they flip the script and student’s creativity takes over.  What children have in imagination out-strips anything I can offer in design experience.  They unpack what experienced designers consider normal or take for granted, and re-structure the work in ingenious ways. 


My enthusiasm for this hands-on paper-based approach to 3D design led me to reach out to Paul Jackson, a world-renowned origami artist and author of over 40 books on the subject.  We discussed the subject and he offered lots of advice on teaching methods and workshop exercises, to get the best results out of this working method.  His advice was very insightful, offering a lot of strategies to work with in the classroom.  Paul said:


There are many reasons to want to manipulate paper, and many methods to work with.  Folding and cutting are the two most basic mechanisms and are creative opposites: Folding makes a sheet smaller and cutting makes it bigger.  This expanding and contracting are two sides  of the same coin but do very different things with the paper.  Folding is geometric and a controlled process.  Cutting can offer a lot more freedom creativity but can be without the same discipline and control as folding.  Paul focuses on folding as it offers more creative control and is a reversible process, which cutting is not.  


Playing with variations on one of Paul's standard folding motifs.


Secondly, start with the reasons for wanting to fold.  Is it to create a structure, a shelter, a pavilion, a bag to piece of furniture?  This should be the starting point of the process.  From there, let play and experimentation drive the investigation to see what the paper offers through your mind and fingers.  


Paul often begins workshops teaching  generic folding techniques.  These are outlined in his books and offer many many possibilities and applications.  Using A4 paper makes work simple and accessible.  Students are less concerned about making mistakes.  Trial and error is important.  The process involves making a mess in the classroom; creating a large body of studies from which the more successful examples can be extracted to form a vocabulary of 3D geometries to develop design proposals with.  


Developing variations on standard folding motifs

This process gets students working three dimensionally, realising studies they can hold in their hands and developing their understanding of 3D geometry which they can then apply to multiple applications.  It’s a process which also seems to work for different design subject areas such as Architecture, Sculpting, Textiles, etc., because the basic principles are transferrable.  Improvisation is an important part of the workshop process because the design sequence will always be different and individual; creativity unpacks what we think we know and offers new possibilities for achieving the design goals.  


Some other very simple exercises include the use of post-it notes.  Asking the students to make one fold only in the sheet might not seem too creative, but assemble them in sequence in a grid and they can transform in to am impressive composition.  Examining the pattern with changing light adds to the dynamic and can be really exciting.  


Options on the theme.  Even crumpling a sheet makes a versatile
structure!

Paul says that a simple fold offer more design possibilities than complicated folds.  They can be used in many applications.  Two to three folds can offer a great base for creative design.  Start simple and play.   Test the designed forms in changing light and the environment of the workshop.  


Simple folds establish modules, units, simple patterns and folding motifs which can be arranged in a variety of ways and at different scales to create a huge variety of forms.  Experiment with variations on the same pattern; repositioning nodes, angles of folds and changing the shape of the paper etc.  This offers yet more variations and possibilities.  Different arrangements achieve entirely different forms and results.  


Paul’s advice is to keep the investigation simple and work up to a level of complexity comfortable with the class.  It’s a visual and tactile process that enables students to understand 3D form directly like no other activity - but play is a must:  Play play play!  Paul adds that origami might have been around for thousands of years but there are novelties, new discoveries and new creations that emerge with every investigation.  


Translating folds in to sheet patterns to create pleats and structures

There is something magical about taking a piece of paper and from a starting point of nothing, creating a form, structure or an object with your hands and a few quick folds.  Paul describes it as modern day alchemy.  It's also a reversible process which can transform between one state as another, something which is unusual and special in creative processes.


There is nothing in a sheet of paper that suggests what the form is going to be before it is folded.  It is usually very difficult to visualise a resultant 3D geometry from looking at a folding pattern.  This is a learnt skill. We are not born with it.  We are used to 2D and 3D patterns and forms but we are not trained to perceive the transition between the two.  Perhaps because this needs to be learned we find it easier to rely on computers, CAD, parametric software and 3D printing etc.  But automation and digital technologies are not the same as having something that you can create, hold in your hand and manipulate from one stage to another.  This is not something achievable with 3D CAD.  Computers produce one item at a time and these are not immediately accessible as items you can hold in your hands.  


For primary school pupils, paper folding is important for developing fine motor skills and dexterity in the children’s hands.  Muscular strength required to hold a pencil with early years classes could run in parallel with basic origami skills.  


For architects and design professionals it should be second nature to have a stack of paper to hand by the desk, to enable design issues to be investigated with folded paper exercises.  


For me, this makes workshop planning more focused and efficient.  I look forward to testing these principles out in the classroom soon, when restrictions allow. 


Paul Jackson and his work can be found at:

Website: http://www.origami-artist.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/miri.golan

YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeJA_47Q_WpgrLca-MT22ug  (Although Paul stresses that books on the subject are a much better source for ideas and learning skills)