The Black House
Alasdair & Neil Stephen, Dualchas Architects
With its perfect blend of contemporary architecture and the vernacular of the Scottish Highlands, The Black House dominates the wild coast near Armadale on the Isle of Skye. The project is the work of local practice Dualchas, which takes its name from the Gaelic term for «cultural heritage» and has designed numerous buildings based on local traditions. For more than twenty years it has been spearheading the renaissance of Scottish residential architecture.
Over the years the firm’s residential projects have demonstrated that architecture based on an understanding of the cultural context of an area can combine distinction with virtue. «The use of materials, how we address the climate challenge, and how we respond to a site’s topography are all key,» say architects Alasdair and Neil Stephen, identical twins and co-founders of Dualchas. «A building should be respectful of its surroundings, but the quality of the spaces should lift the soul.»
Winner of the Best New House and Best Building at the 2018 IAA Awards and the Scotland RIBA Regional Award in 2019, the house is built in a prominent location clearly visible from ferries approaching the Isle of Skye and the pier. The site is located within a wooded area, with a flat plateau at the top, sloping down to a steep rock face meeting the shore.
«The obvious and easiest place to build would have been on the flat area at the top, which the seller had cleared with this intention,» explain the architects. «The view is beautiful from here but feels removed from the shore. We wanted to control the drama of the site, and as well as exploiting the view we wanted to create an intimate relationship with the shore and rocky landscape. Our approach was to drop a two storey box into a natural hollow in the bay.»
When approached from the road, the house appears as a modest single-storey black gable. From the front a two storey glazed gable cantilevers out dramatically over the rocky foreshore. This contrast is carried through the interior, where a narrow and unremarkable entrance lobby leads to a double height library/stairwell lit from above, while the view through the frameless glazed gable dominates the main living space. Although the house is filled with books, art and objects, it doesn’t feel cluttered and the end result is quite sculptural, with a feeling of a lived-in and welcoming place.
In keeping with the essential style of this Scottish house, tiles from Ceramiche Keope’s Moov collection were chosen for the bathroom walls and floors in a Grey finish and a 45×45 cm square size. These concrete-effect porcelain tiles interact perfectly with the materials, shapes and colour palette of the pure and minimalist architecture, a successful fusion of the local building tradition with an ultra-contemporary vision of a house by the sea.
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): <0,1
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant