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Looking North: Salt & Honey Architectural Design: Tectonics Design Report

Caroline Wells

Table of Contents


Journey North: Visiting Errol

Rewilding the Edges

Post-Industrial Agriculture

Appendix Precedent Study of Patkau Architect’s Strawberry Vale Elementary School

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Arctic Circle, 66º, 30’N Errol, 56° 23’N


This project aims to link the town of Errol to its pre-industrial past, creating links between the historic core of the town, and its newly rewilded edge. The market place, compost facility, greenhouses and raised garden beds provide the town with a new form of agriculture that will allow the new wilderness to thrive and coexist with human activity. The conditions of North that this project takes into account are the strong sense of community that is fostered in a Northern, isolated town. The exposure to the elements, meteorological conditions that vary through seasons, and being surrounded by wilderness are all qualities that are daunting yet invigorating, like life up North. Throughout this project, environmental issues have been greatly considered as coming changes to climate threaten the aforementioned conditions which make the North so unique. The daily and seasonal cycles through which the market and its accompanying facilities face are an integral element in the Northern life, as is the integration of the wilderness into this project.


Errol’s new food cooperative will bring the local population together to learn about and get involved in recycling food waste, using it to grow new fruits and vegetables in a naturally pesticide and fertilizer free way, by using the natural nutrients present in compost, as well as studied crop rotations. Adjacent to this will be a new market place for the town as a whole, which would sell products made as a consequence of rewilding the town. This rewilding would be systematic, across Scotland as a whole, and intends to break up the spread of agricultural land, replacing it with increased connectivity between natural habitats. These biodiversity sites are currently in great danger from increased agricultural activity on Scotland’s East coast.



Journey North: Visiting Errol

“The smallest settlement is a city

townscape, on however minute a scale. Terraces of houses with stone-walled gardens behind are set straight onto the pavement with little space between them. The only houses in a Scottish village that stand back in their own ground are the Victorian or later villas of the grain merchant and the doctor, not rural villas, but imitations of the Victorian suburbs of the cities.� - Peter Davidson, The Idea of North



Historic Town Core


Modern Additions

Walking through Errol revealed a very noticeable contrast between the historic High Street and the newer, modern developments. The need for a tight knit urban grain in the historic core of Errol is reflective of the need for closeness and protection from the elements in the Scottish North.


Historical Urban Grain

Buildings Plot Lines

Private Semi-Private Semi-Public Public

Contemporary Urban Grain - Nolli Map


Errol’s Urban Grain Further research into the historical development of the town of Errol reveals the openness of the high street of Errol in comparison to Errol’s newer developments. The Nolli map shows the new developments to be mostly private or semi-private space which are individualised, and go against the more communal nature of living in the North. Our group proposal for Errol should take into account this historic urban grain and aim to reflect the proximity of buildings within it, as well as the its ‘porosity’ at ground level.


Material Palette


Brick is a prevalent material throughout Errol, both in its historic core as well as in newer buildings, pointing towards Errol’s industrial history, as well as its location upon a large clay deposit, the primary material in bricks. Inchcoonan’s Brick and Tile Works, which was founded in the mid 19th-century and is located on the outskirts of Errol would have likely been the source of much of the bricks used in the town’s construction.

Opposite: Bricks, and clay tones are present

throughout the buildings of Errol. All brick buildings showcase the variety of bricks that were produced, including glazed bricks and lighter-coloured buff bricks. It was interesting to see instances of bricks being used but covered in a harling finish, typical of buildings in Northern Scotland as a further layer of protection against the cold, humid weather conditions.


Exploring the Wilderness



Flora & Fauna of Errol

“Rewilding is not about abandoning civilization but about enhancing it. It is to ‘love not man the less, but Nature more.”

- George Monbiot, Feral


Because our visit to Errol was during the winter time, many species of local wildlife were not visible, however, there were few visible indications of a thriving wildlife present, especially during the summer time. The strongest of these was visible at the reed beds on the River Tay. However, there was a strong sense of isolation in that little bit of biodiversity. Moving away from the reedbeds there was far less evidence of any wild life, though it appeared through the cracks of buildings and pavements, desperately trying to break through. In ‘Feral’, George Monbiot argues for the process of ‘rewilding’ former wilderness, by returning key species which would bring back the ecological cycles which exist between every species in a specific habitat. Monbiot cites the example of wolves being reintroduced to a North American national park, and the positive effects the reintroduction had on the local biodiversity. Hunted by humans for killing cattle, wolves had disappeared from these areas, leaving animals such as deer and other grazing mammals to over-graze the national parks, leading to devastation to other smaller species, which needed tall grass and trees for protection. Reintroducing wolves cut down on the number of grazing animals, bringing back the natural cycles which had once existed there. Errol and its surroundings are currently similar to that national park: with larger animals disappearing, smaller insects and reptiles no longer have a proper environment in which to live. Similarly, increased human activity as agriculture becomes more heavily industrialised leaves many key species in danger, leading to the decline of whole ecosystems.


Flora & Fauna of the River Tay Biodiversity Site

european hare

roe deer

sedge warbler marsh harrier


orange tip butterfly

red fox sand martin european rabbit midges marsh fritillary

great crested newt

bearded tit


pine weevil common toad

greylag goose

natterjack toad crested newt


swan goldeneye duck

pearl bordered fritillary pine marten goldeneye duck

water rail



Broadleaved Forest Coniferous Forest Water Reed beds earless seal

Many of the key species included in the map, such as the Atlantic salmon, are currently endangered, yet depended on by other species, such as the freshwater pearl mussel.

common seal

harbour seal

brown trout

grey seal

atlantic salmon

While these are all species that residents of Errol could expect to see, the historic biodiversity of a site like this would have been far greater. There are many species which should be present in this estuary and surrounding marsh land, but aren’t.

freshwater pearl mussel

*Map represents different species in the type of habitat they would usually be found in


Rural Mosaic: Bringing the wilderness back to Errol


One of the main takeaways our group had from visiting Errol was being amazed by the amount of biodiversity present in isolated locations throughout the surrounding countryside. The reedbeds on the River Tay and the swans that were swimming there when we visited prompted us to begin researching Errol and the Tay as a natural biodiversity site. Despite the incredible biodiversity on this area of the river Tay, research revealed that this site, and others like it, were at risk due to the lack of interconnectivity between biodiversity sites, as well as the side effects of industrial agricultural activity. As chemical pesticides and fertilizers are spread throughout fields, the smallest species are negatively affected, therefore affecting most larger species that would depend on them.

Opposite: Crop fields expand across the fields surrounding Errol, and the natural biodiversity sites on the Tay

Accessed at Canmore: https://canmore.org.uk/ collection/1484468?fbclid=IwAR0pvqqokJik6ZjNXFb86wM5e99Kz3vHSTvaocvcCOj5pB62PFWNZCzq7s4 https://canmore.org.uk/collection/1578176?fbclid=IwAR1yTL5sK6tg1vAmk6iV8S6wd9YwiXLb6HN4lfduIXhLySrC77ItBKr4zA https://canmore.org.uk/collection/1713163?fbclid=IwAR1oK-AQJTqEmxMgs53xSaegSWGosBVZuInmSFYCFzAth83ij2ZlAEUvj8


Reeds overtaking an abandoned house in Errol. Accessed at Canmore: https://canmore.org.uk/ collection/1839228


Wilderness; an area of land that has not been farmed or had towns and roads built on it, esp. because it is difficult to live in as a result of its extremely cold or hot weather or bad earth:


Errol: Rural Mosaic

Drawing by Chris Qian


This section shows the distribution of wildlife and vegetation in the surroundings of Errol. The town of Errol surprisingly acts as a haven to many key species, which are allowed to flourish in green spaces isolated from industrial agricultural activity.

The codependent relationship between humans and animals was very interesting to us. Towns such as Errol are currently biodiversity sites surrounded by agricultural land.


Rural Mosaic: Mapping Biodiversity Sites vs Agricultural Land around Errol

Drawing by Emily Wells


Wilderness Reedbeds Broadleaved Woodlands Coniferous Woodlands Agricultural Urban/ Suburban This map shows the lack of interconnectivity between different biodiversity sites (forests and reedbeds), mostly caused by industrial agricultural land separating them


Rural Mosaic: Mapping Biodiversity Sites vs Agricultural Land in Scotland



Wildland / Anders Povlsen Wilderness Scottish Government Owned National Park NGO Owned Agricultural Urban/ Suburban This map combines different environmental agencies’ maps of their land hold in Scotland., intending to show the spread of wilderness, and the agricultural land encroaching upon it. The amount of land held by environmental agencies or individuals is largely indicative of increased biodiversity, as this land is not used for extractive economical activity, such as agriculture. The agricultural land, on the other hand, is thought to hinder biodiversity. As shown here, the whole East coast of Scotland is largely agricultural, with few opportunities for interconnectivity of different habitats.


“Autumn Kinnordy,” James Mcintosh Patrick

Accessed at ‘The Saleroom’: https://www.the-saleroom. com/en-gb/auction-catalogues/chiswick-auctions/ catalogue-id-srchis10151/lot-89507a45-c222-42c6-9061a51c0120a659


“What gives this painting its quality and urgency is that it catches a moment of lastness. The last of the days when it is possible even to pretend that winter is not imminent. The last moment of the autumn afternoon before the chill strikes. The last moment of stillness before the evening wind rises. The last moment of the agricultural year before the earth is turned over.� Peter Davidson, The Idea of North This painting shows a pre-industrial rural community in Perth & Kinross, not dissimilar to Errol. This preindustrial painting showcases the importance of closeness to the land, a dependancy that has been stripped away, greatly changing the meaning of life in the North. Industrialised agriculture, while beneficial in many ways, is also largely to blame for the collapse of biodiversity. A return to a preindustrial agriculture in Errol would create a safe haven for many keystone species which are currently at risk from overarming and overgrazing,


Biodiverse Mosaic: Proposed ‘green corridors’ linking key biodiversity sites

Drawing by Emily Wells


Wilderness Reedbeds Broadleaved Woodlands Coniferous Woodlands Agricultural Urban/ Suburban Rewilded Connected Land By reclaiming agricultural land surrounding Errol, the biodiversity site at the River Tay can become connected with larger areas of biodiversity, allowing more freedom of movement to key stone species. This rewilding will allow for a better synanthropic, mutually beneficial relationship between all species. Humans will also benefit from this relationship, as they become more exposed to the wilderness.


Biodiverse Mosaic: Proposed ‘green corridors’ linking key biodiversity sites



Wildland / Anders Povlsen Wilderness Scottish Government Owned National Park NGO Owned Agricultural Urban/ Suburban The proposal to rewild Errol would also see changes to the whole of Scotland. Much of the agricultural land would remain, and continue to sustain local populations. However, this land would be broken up into small mosaic pieces within the larger framework intended to increase the connectivity between different biodiverse habitats.


Biodiverse Errol: Masterplan Keeping agricultural land is extremely important, however, increasing the green space between different fields will foster a better ecosystem. This interaction between the human and the natural is key to the rewilding process, and showing the coexistence between human and wild.



Biodiverse Errol: Rewilding the Edges

‘Cities must urge urban planners and architects to reinforce pedestrianism as an integrated city policy to develop lively, safe, sustainable and healthy cities. It is equally urgent to strengthen the social function of city space as a meeting place that contributes toward the aims of social sustainability and an open and democratic society.’ Jan Gehl, Life Between Buildings

Looking at existing routes and green spaces through Errol, we arranged a series of green corridors throughout the town, which would allow for the movement of different species through the town, whilst also arranging walking pathways through Errol. Errol would become a largely walking town, which is possible thanks to its small size, public transport and its proximity to the Errol train station, which would be reopened as part of the proposal. The placement of the key programmes on different sites throughout the town would be essential to foster pedestrian movement and activity through it. The key programmes associated with rewilding Errol would be placed adjacent to the green corridors, anchored by the existing communal spaces along the corridors.


Foothpaths around Errol High Street & Bus Route


Biodiverse Errol: Rewilding the Edges

1 - Food Cooperative - town wide composting facility, cultivation and market place, focused around returning Errol to a preindustrial form of agriculture, centred around recycling food waste and selling local food and crafts. 2 - Errol Arts Centre - centre for the performing and visual arts, focused around creating an interactive experience with nature and art. 3 - Biodiversity Research Centre bringing academics and scientists to Errol to help in the process of rewilding the town and the surrounding wilderness 4 - Biohub - key social engagement space, bringing residents together to partake in different craft activities, which can help foster a non-extractive economy. Key Existing Communal Spaces I - Church II - Mercat Cross and Square III - Errol Community Centre IV - Errol Primary School










Biodiverse Errol: Rewilding the North Edge

The North edge of Errol presents the unique challenge of building on a hill that slopes downwards towards the North, minimizing the amount of sun that hits it. This masterplan development brings back the urban grain of the Errol high street, with a strong, tight knit street front that breaks up behind. The buildings on the back side of the street front are broken up to avoid being covered by buildings higher up, but also to allow for a stronger relationship between the wilderness and the built environment. Both the tight knit urban fabric and this exposure to wilderness are idiosyncratic of life in the North, specifically the Scottish North.



Biodiverse Errol: A Post-Industrial Agriculture



Errol Food Cooperative will aim to bring together Errol’s residents, to participate in the process of composting food waste, and reusing the byproduct to grow new organic fruit and vegetables. An added marketplace will become a social gathering space for the residents, where they can come together to purchase locally produced honey, beeswax, culled meats, and other products of the rewilding process. Providing Errol with a new model for postindustrial, organic agriculture, that isn’t harmful to its natural surroundings, is a key move in returning the true qualities of Northern living to Errol. Closeness to the land and to the things people depend on is the ethos of the Food Cooperative.


Biodiverse Errol: A Post-Industrial Agriculture Located on the verge between suburban areas and the new wilderness, this site acts as an organiser of pedestrian traffic through the area. Located on the footpath towards Errol station, the marketplace would become a key landmark on the way in/out of the town. The curved shape of the market ground brings people in, creating a civic space on the suburban space. It then opens up towards the wilderness, allowing it in and moving people through it, creating an interaction between the feral and the human. From the suburban side, one sees the marketplace’s sweeping roof lines, while the composting facility and the conservatory are nestled lower down in the site, hiding their semi-industrial function away from the suburban side.


Compost collection route Pedestrian route Vehicular traffic


Process of Composting

Collection The average person produces an estimated 75kg of food waste per year, meaning that a town the size of Errol would produce 96 tonnes of food waste. Food waste that is not composted is usually sent to the landfill, where it undergoes anaerobic digestion (bacteria eat the food waste, without oxygen), releasing methane into the environment. Other alternatives could see food waste taken from bins by wild animals - creating a reliance on human feeding which is unhealthy for the ecosystem




Food and garden waste are stored until enough is gathered to begin the process.

All materials are ground into 10cm pieces, allowing them to break down easier.



Microbes begin to break down the material, raising its temperature to 6570oC, killing weed seeds and pathogens, making the compost naturally pest free.

Microbes need to have the right ratio of Carbon: Nitrogen (around 30:1, where carbon is wood, leaves, etc. and nitrogen is food, grass, etc.).



Compost is moved to the final step, where it ages over time, from 2 months to 2 years. The more curation time, the more nutrients the soil will have.

The material gets processed to filter out contaminants, such as plastic.

Soil Use *An alternative method of composting involves storing the food and garden waste in large tanks, allowing them to break down anaerobically. The methane produced in this process can be used as a biofuel.

By this point, a nutrient-rich, pest-free soil has been created, and can be reused in less industrialised, organic planting, which won’t pose a threat to surrounding wildlife.


Biodiverse Errol: Creating Spaces for Nature

Strawberry Vale Elementary School,

Accessed at: https://www.archdaily.com/767947/adclassics-strawberry-vale-elementary-schoolpatkau-architects


partial wilderness outdoor, non-wild indoor spaces rewilded

Inspired by Patkau Architect’s Strawberry Vale School, and the way the architects created classroom blocks arranged around rocky geological formations on the site, the compost facility, cultivation grounds and market place are all pulled apart in order to maximise the potential for interactions between the human and the wild.


Biodiverse Errol: Tectonic Strategy The tectonic and stereotomic strategy is paramount in dealing with a sloping site and different processes which could be considered semiindustrial. The approach taken separates the building into the stereotomic and the tectonic: the former being treated as a ‘sculpted ground’ which moulds plinths and walls upwards in some spaces, and carving out the ground in others. The tectonic, on the other hand, is treated as the comparably lightweight structure which is placed on the stereotomic. A mostly stereotomic approach was best for the compost facility, as it needs thick, brick walls for the activities taking place within it. By making these double leaf walls, they also act as retaining walls as they carve out the ground. For the remaining functions: food preparation, conservatory and market place, brick plinth and walls were combined with a tectonic timber frame, that organises space. Stereotomic (in section) Stereotomic (in elevation) Tectonic Existing topography





Separating the Components: Patkau Architect’s Strawberry Vale Elementary School

This building provided an important precedent because of how its tectonic strategy relates to the building’s location on the verge between suburbia and wilderness. The separation of the buildings components creates a series of outdoor and indoor spaces which move gradually from fully enclosed to fully exposed. The model opposite explores the different components of the building’s structural ‘kit of parts’ and how breaking them down creates spaces with different qualities. Strawberry Vale Elementary School,

Accessed at: https://www.archdaily.com/767947/adclassics-strawberry-vale-elementary-schoolpatkau-architects

Kit of Parts Roof Insulated Roof


Plinth Ground


Spaces Created Walled, but uncovered; surrounded by walls which protect the user, but open to the sky above.

Open, but protected; under the roof,

protected by surrounding walls and on the concrete plinth. Users can comfortably enjoy the outdoors

Fully exposed; with no protective

elements, the user can fully inhabit the wild whilst the protected spaces lie behind, waiting for their return

Covered, but on ‘wild’ ground; the last step in the transition from enclosed to exposed, on rough, untreated ground but with cover from the roof overhead

Fully enclosed; the user is in a fully

conditioned space, with windows providing glimpses of the wild exterior awaiting them


Separating the Components: Errol Cooperative Marketplace The tectonic and stereotomic strategy is paramount in dealing with a sloping site and different processes which could be considered semiindustrial. The approach taken separates the building into the stereotomic and the tectonic: the former being treated as a ‘sculpted ground’ which moulds plinths and walls upwards in some spaces, and carving out the ground in others. The tectonic, on the other hand, is treated as the comparably lightweight structure which is placed on the stereotomic.

Kit of Parts Insulated Roof Wall Roof

Plinth Ground


Spaces Created Walled, but uncovered; surrounded by walls which protect the user, but open to the sky above.

Open, but protected; under the roof,

protected by surrounding walls and on the concrete plinth. Users can comfortably enjoy the outdoors

Fully exposed; with no protective

elements, the user can fully inhabit the wild whilst the protected spaces lie behind, waiting for their return

Covered, but on ‘wild’ ground; the last step in the transition from enclosed to exposed, on rough, untreated ground but with cover from the roof overhead

Fully enclosed; the user is in a fully

conditioned space, with windows providing glimpses of the wild exterior awaiting them


Conditioned & Unconditioned Spaces Beyond changing the different qualities of spaces, separating these components creates a variety of spaces that are conditioned and unconditioned. Being in the North, having properly conditioned, insulated spaces is incredibly important, however, having some unconditioned spaces allows users to truly enjoy the specific climactic conditions of this location.


Covered Walled, but uncovered Enclosed Enclosed, but not conditioned


Sun Analysis

Midday, Winter Solstice Being in a Northern location, and dealing with agriculture and growing crops, orienting the proposal in a way that would maximise sunlight, and provide crop lands with varying degrees of sunlight.


Midday, Equinox

Midday, Summer Solstice


Approach to Sunlight: Modifying roof lines

The conservatories were given pitched roofs which would allow the maximum amount of direct sunlight in from Winter Solstice to Summer Solstice. These would be warm spaces on sunny days as the brick walls would store heat, making them perfect to grow fruits and vegetables from warmer climates.

Because of the large spans needed for the compost facility, a sawtooth roof was chosen, with glazing facing North, in order to get indirect, refracted sunlight which wouldn’t interfere with the processes happening.

The open-air planters would be completely uncovered, used for fruits and vegetables that are native to the Scottish North.


Section through enclosed Southern market, showing how it adapts to allow for a roof light.

The market’s roofs are arranged so as to provide protection from strong South-Western winds, and cold NorthEastern winds.

Where the market is enclosed, the Northern enclosure would have glazing facing South for heat gain, whilst the Southern enclosure would have the roof line changed to allow sunlight in.


Material Selection: Brick & Timber

Errol’s brickworks, Inchoonan’s was a primary workplace for many of its residents, producing bricks for over a century. A presentation by a representative of Taylor Maxwell’s (a local construction material provider, which supplies a large variety of bricks), showed the amount of labour that goes into the production of this material, as well as the large variety in types of bricks that could be acheived thanks to different production methods and types of clays. Inchcoonan’s was one of few remaining brickworks to fire their bricks in traditional kilns, using wood fire, unlike more modern brick production. This traditional method involves a lot of craftmanship and a closeness with the materials of the ground. In order to reference the town’s history, as well as the bricks seen throughout the town, the building’s stereotomic components would be constructed from traditional red bricks, brushed to replicate the roughness of older handcrafted bricks. These bricks would also be randomly selected to allow a variety in colour from oranges to deep reds.

Old Inchcoonan’s Bricks, Accessed at:



Brick Colours seen in Errol

In order to continue the use of local materials, Scottish hardwoods would be preferable for the tectonic structural components. While there are many varieties of Scottish woods which could be used, Scottish oak has a more characterful appearance than other varieties, and a less straight grain. While the characterful knots would not be visible in the structural timber components, wood finishes throughout the building would showcase the dark knots that characterise this hardwood. The contrast between the darker knots and the lighter wood would emphasize the contrast between the different brick tones.

Varied Red Clay Brick, Accessed at:


Scottish Oak, Accessed at: https://www. tilelook.com/en-GB/users/emil-ceramica/ tiles/scottish-oak-nat-rett-cf7459d0-d48f419e-8c22-f99ccdc4399e


Kit of Parts: Greenhouse, Kitchen, Market

The main structural components are oak beams and columns, and bricks. These components act in similar ways, as a simple kit of parts, in both the external conservatories, and the kitchen.



Kit of Parts: Marketplace

Having a more lightweight timber structure allows visitors to the marketplace experience the series of bays as they move through the marketplace. Enjoying this structural aspect of the market emphasizes it’s position as a landmark on the journey into the town.



Kit of Parts: Marketplace

Because of the market’s position as a landmark for pedestrian and cycling routes into the town, as well as it’s moving roof line, the structural components are somewhat different than the kitchen and conservatory. Because of the way each column and beam fans out, and the changing height and angles of each roof piece, each structural component would be uniquely specified for an exact position within the market. These components would all have the same overall form.


Oak Glulam crank beams

Structure for Enclosed Southern Market

Oak Beams with Notches at Joints Oak Columns

Oak Glulam crank beams

Structure for Rest of Market

Oak Beams, joined by metal plate

Oak Columns


Kit of Parts: Marketplace

In order to truly enjoy the order of the beams and purlins from inside the enclosed market spaces, the roof’s insulation is placed on the external side of the roof, similarly to Patkau Architect’s Strawberry Vale School, where the timber and steel structure can be thoroughly enjoyed throughout the building.

Strawberry Vale School, exposed roof beams and purlins, and external insulation as seen from the outside, Accessed at: https://www.archdaily.com/767947/adclassics-strawberry-vale-elementary-schoolpatkau-architects?ad_source=search&ad_ medium=search_result_all


Perspectival Section through the Northern enclosed market, showing the external roof and the visible beams and purlins.


Inhabiting the Building: Human side The primary building components: stereotomic brick plinth and column footing, and tectonic timber structure, allow the space to be shaped following the building’s structural requirements. The column footings are moulded to create different spaces for human inhabitation.

Group Table Seating


Bench Seating

Market Tables

Bar Seating, Facing the Wilderness


Inhabiting theBuilding: Wild side Beyond the human use of the marketplace, the building structure is shaped in order to foster wildlife.

Placing glazing between the brick wall and the roof creates a nook in which birds such as house martins and swallows can create nests, which visitors can observe from the inside.


Niches within the external brick walls on the site create spaces for beehives, bird’s nests and smaller insects to reside.


Inhabiting theBuilding: Wild side A water collection system takes rainwater and funnels it towards a pool on the Northern market, and a shallower water bed on the Southern market side. These water features are placed depending on the topographic conditions of each market space: the flatter Southern market has a shallower pool where vegetation that prefers partial submersion can grow. Meanwhile, the Northern market is on a steeper part of the site, so the pool becomes a part of the series of retaining walls on the site. This deeper pool would have vegetation that thrives in total submersion. The shallower water bed would also host insects and reptiles that prefer more humid conditions, such as the common toad, species of newts, dragonflies and Scottish butterflies.


Section through Northern market

Section through Southern market




Appendix: Precedent Study of Patkau Architect’s


Strawberry Vale Elementary School

Strawberry Vale Elementary School Patkau Architects Precedent Study by Caroline Wells


Strawberry Vale Elementary School Siting

The school’s location at the outskirts of Victoria, on the verge between the urban and the wild heavily informed Patkau Architect’s approach to the site, which backed on to a rocky outcrop, caused by a geological rift



1- 1950 school 2- playing fields 3- 1893 school house 4- new school construction 5- geological rocky outcrop








The school’s architecture has quite a commanding presence on the site. Its North face relates to the scales of the old school building and the smaller residences, while the central corridor becomes a prominent element of the building.




Strawberry Vale Elementary School Programme

Classroom pods Gym Administration/Service Areas Library/Computer lab Circulation


Views outwards from corridor spine

The rooms that would be used less frequently by students (gym, library, computer lab and administration areas) face on to the suburban side of the site. The classroom pods are all located on the natural side of the site, facing the rocky outcrop. This placement of the key learning areas shows Patkau architect’s desire to foster a pedagogical relationship between the students and nature. Similarly, the main circulation area is designed in such a way as to ensure natural daylight, as well as occasional views out toward the landscape.

Rocky outcrops as seen from a classroom


Strawberry Vale Elementary School Programme

Patkau architects created a series of modular ‘classroom pods’ that are arranged along the corridor spine. These pods shift inwards and outwards, adapting to the natural contours of the land, and creating the different shifts in the corridor. Looking at other buildings by Patkau architects shows how this is a common motif in their work: shifting and sculpting the architecture that houses different programmes and creating an interesting circulation space between.

Seabird Island School


Audain Art Museum

Daegu Gosan Public Library

Gleneagles Community Centre


Shifting the classroom pods results in the building being given the appearance of tectonic plates buckling against eachother, creating a geomorphic topography that mimics the site’s rocky outcrops. This is enhanced by the way the building follows the height of the ground: each classroom pod is slightly lower than the other, creating a series of overlapping rooves that become lower along with the ground.


The overlapping roofs also create a succession of covered and uncovered spaces, that also allow light into the corridor spine. The spaces between the classroom pods become break-out spaces where the school children can interact with the landscape, while still being protected from the elements. The three highest classroom pods allow the landscape to infiltrate the space between them, heightening this experience.


Strawberry Vale Elementary School Tectonics

The primary structural materials used were concrete, steel columns and primary beams and timber wooden beams. The exterior was clad in timber slats, while the interior was partially clad in white plasterboard, though the structural components remain exposed in the majority of the interior, as well as on the underside of the outside roofs.

Partial model showing the relationship between the poured concrete ground, steel column and beam and timber secondary beams

The space between the two different classroom pods is particularly interesting tectonically, because of how different material relationships are so clearly expressed. The concrete base acts as an anchor for the steel columns, which in turn support the steel beams that take the loads from the secondary timber beams and the roof. The concrete base is also sculpted in an interesting way, possibly to create spaces within which children can play.


Partial model of the outdoor spaces created between the classroom pods


Sectional model showing the space between pods


Source: ArchDaily

Image of Strawberry Vale School, showing the space between the middle two pods


Profile for caroline wells

Biodiverse Errol - Food Cooperative  

Biodiverse Errol - Food Cooperative