MSA Stage 3 School of Architecture

Ayça Zembat

The Wood Workshop: Chair Artisans and Capturing The Forest

The Wood Workshop: Chair Artisans and Capturing The Forest

Project: A Life-long Learning Retreat

Introduction: This project aims to enhance social tourism in Fort William through the creation of a Lifelong Learning Retreat in Crafts. It aims to create a space where craft, culture and community come together by revitalising the city centre, creating community engagement and promoting economic growth.

The Site and Its History

The site for this project is situated in a location with a park to the northwest and a church to the southeast. Historically, this site was part of the church grounds but was later sold to raise funds for the church. Currently, the site hosts a building occupied by a sportswear brand. However, for this project, the existing building will be demolished, making way for the new development that aligns with the vision of the Workshop.

Get to Know My Client

Meet Ronald Harper, a master chair designer. He envisions a space where artisans can learn and create, preserving traditional crafts while building a vibrant community.

Architectural Features and Facilities

Ground Floor

Entering the building through a wide archway, visitors are welcomed in a vibrant atmosphere of creativity and craftsmanship. The ground floor serves as the foundation of the retreat, housing a variety of technical facilities designed to support craftsmen in their creativity.

Here, artisans have access to a large demonstration area where traditional craft techniques are celebrated and educational workshops are held. Adjacent to this central area is a dedicated area for storing wood and tools, providing easy access to the materials and equipment the craftsmen need to bring their ideas to life.

There is also a meeting and studio space on the ground floor, providing focused workspace for collaboration, discussion and individual projects. Complementing these facilities is a handy kitchenette, offering craftsmen the opportunity to refresh while they are working.

First Floor: Open Studio

Flooded with natural light from the large arched windows, this space serves primarily as a studio and exhibition space for designing and conceptualising chairs and exhibitions.

The first floor studio is designed to encourage collaboration and flexibility. There are no partitions, allowing artisans to work together and draw inspiration from one another. Here, artisans engage in the creative process of drawing and designing chairs, exploring various concepts and refining their ideas.

One notable feature is the mezzanine level accessible via grand steps. From here, visitors can get a bird’s-eye view of the studio below. In addition to being a working space, the first floor also serves as an exhibition area. It’s here that students and artisans display their creations, including the chairs they’ve designed and brought to life. With its abundant natural light and open layout, the first floor studio fosters an environment of collaboration and creativity, essential to the Life-long Learning in Crafts Retreat.

Second Floor

The second floor serves as a multifunctional space, featuring:

Meeting Space: An area for gatherings, discussions, and collaborative sessions.

Library with Studying Area: A calm space filled with books and resources, providing artists and visitors alike with a quiet place for study and reflection.

Void with Overlook: A feature of the second floor is the void that overlooks the mezzanine floor below, offering a unique vantage point and creating a sense of connection between the levels.

The glass walls flood the space with natural light, creating an open and airy atmosphere that seamlessly blends indoor and outdoor elements. The terrace provides a calm place where visitors can enjoy the views of Fort William.

Second Floor Terrace

The terrace serves as a multifunctional outdoor space, integrating with the interior through large glass walls that provide natural light and a sense of openness. The terrace is designed with comfortable seating areas where residents can relax, socialise, and take in the surrounding views

The terrace also functions as an extension of the indoor meeting and library areas, providing an alternative venue for discussions, and quiet reflection. The outdoor space is designed to accommodate various activities, from casual gatherings and informal meetings to relaxation.

Third and Fourth Floor: Accommodation

Entering the third and fourth floors, guests are greeted by living quarters tailored expressly for the participating artisans.

The third and fourth floors of the building offer breathtaking views of Fort William sea and the surrounding mountains, providing a serene and picturesque backdrop for residents and visitors alike.

The rooms are outfitted with bunk beds, accommodating two individuals each, creating a sense of camaraderie and creating connections among residents.

Additionally, both the third and fourth floors have kitchen facilities, enabling residents to prepare meals and snacks according to their preferences. Also a communal sitting area provides a welcoming space for relaxation, socialisation, and unwinding after a day of creativity.

Below, you can find the floor plans detailing each floor of the new structure.

Project 2: The Observatory, CAPTURING THE FOREST

Introduction: Project 2, explores the intersection of tourism and landscape activities just outside Fort William. The project focuses on creating an observatory, a place designed to help people experience and become aware of the interactions in Lochaber. This observatory aims to make these processes visible and encourage a deeper understanding of the region.

Location and Accessibility
The observatory is located in Camusnagaul, right across from Fort William. It is accessible by a short ferry ride, with a ferry landing just a ten-minute walk from the site. This proximity ensures easy access while maintaining a sense of seclusion and immersion in nature.

Wildlife and Flora
The area surrounding the site is rich in wildlife and flora. Visitors may spot red deer, buzzards, ravens, and a variety of resident and migrant woodland birds during the spring season. Otters can often be seen along the coast. The diverse tree species in the area include ash, rowan, alder, beech, willow, hazel, holly, birches, and oaks. These trees are often adorned with mosses, lichens, enhancing the natural beauty of the landscape.

Historical Pathway: Crofters Wood walk
You reach the site by entering the forest from Crofters Woodwalk, a pathway that hints at the historical presence of crofters practicing small-scale agriculture. This path was deliberately created by the locals and has evolved into an important passage for accessing resources such as food and firewood from the surrounding woodlands. Along the pathway, you will encounter hut circles, and lazy beds, offering insights into the historical landscape and human activities of the area.

Design and Construction
The observatory/research hut is crafted from charred timber, designed to blend seamlessly into the forest surroundings, becoming visible only when in close proximity. The charring process creates a protective carbon layer around the timber, making it exceptionally resistant to water and adding a rustic charm that complements its natural setting.

Interior Features
The hut is designed to accommodate two researchers for their scientific nature studies. You enter the hut through a trapdoor entrance, preserving the charred timber facades on the sides. A spiral staircase provides access and offers a full 360-degree view of the surroundings. Inside, there are no interior walls; the space is divided by long, thick curtains. Two tall and wide windows at each end of the hut allow sunlight to flood in, warming the interior and providing stunning views of the forest. Additionally, the roof is equipped with numerous windows, further enhancing the natural light within the hut and providing a unique view of the treetops and sky.

Natural Ventilation

Cross Ventilation: With windows on both ends of the hut and pitched roofs with windows, cross ventilation can be achieved. Opening windows on opposite ends allows air to flow through the hut, carrying away heat and moisture during hot weather.


Large Windows: The large windows allow plentiful natural light to enter the hut during the day, reducing the need for artificial lighting, especially during Scottish summer time when the daylight hours are longer. This not only saves energy but also creates a more pleasant and inviting interior environment.




Site Plan
Wood Workshop Exterior Visualisation
Ground Floor Entrance
Ground Floor Kitchen and Meeting Space
First Floor Studio Resting Space
First Floor Studio
Second Floor Meeting Space
Accommodation Room
South East Elevation
Technical Drawings
Floor Plans
The Site and Its Surroundings Photographs
The Research Observatory Visualisation
Interior Visualisation
Site Section
Landscape Model

Close-Up Photograph of Landscape Model

Physical Model
Surreal Section Collage