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Richard Murphy completes corrugated aluminium-clad house on Scottish airfield


Edinburgh-based practice Richard Murphy Architects has designed a 400m² home on Strathaven Airfield in South Lanarkshire

The airfield is a 45-minute drive from Glasgow but, weather permitting, Murphy made site visits in his microlight aircraft – registered G-RIBA. The ‘Briongos MacKinnon House’ in Strathaven was featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs in October 2013 and was awarded a RIAS award earlier this year.

The budget for the scheme was tight, as the couple had sold all their property to provide funds, so the house was occupied in May 2016, two years before final completion.

Strathaven Airfield is the oldest continually used airstrip in Scotland and is now an active centre for microlighting. Two large aluminium-clad sheds act as hangars. The clients are the airfield’s chief flying instructor and his partner.

The house features a curved pitched roof to counter strong prevailing winds, and the first floor cantilevers out at both sides. To allow for maximum supervision and minimum invasion of privacy, the main rooms of the house are arranged on the first floor, with only a garage and guest bedrooms on the ground floor.

Strathaven 2297 ©martin lambie

The structure is a simple cantilevered steel frame and the roof and wall cladding is mill-finished corrugated aluminium, in keeping with local farm cladding and that of the adjacent hangars. The ridge of the roof pitch is curved against the wind, while the overhang eaves have no gutters. The first floor is cantilevered out on both sides, with the couple’s individual ‘office’ spaces placed in the roof space.

The kitchen, dining and living areas occupy a double-height space at the end of the house, facing west, and with views out across the airfield. At the southern end of the scheme is a balcony that sits beneath the roof, while to the west a circular terrace sits on top of a woodchip store – fuel for the boiler.

Strathaven 2470 ©martin lambie

Architect’s view

Strathaven Airfield sits in open fields and moorland, and can be subject to quite severe weather. The owners, the airfield’s chief instructor and his trapeze artist partner, commissioned us to design a house parallel to the runway. They had no interest in having a garden so the house sits as an object on a plinth in a landscape of grass and wildflowers.

The structure is a simple steel frame with expressed bracing, and with the first floor cantilevered out on both sides. ‘His and her’ studies sit in the roof space with the kitchen/dining and living space occupies a double-height space facing west and the distant view of a giant wind farm on the horizon.

To the south, a balcony shelters under the roof and to the west a circular terrace sits on top of the woodchip store expressed as a freestanding circular water butt-like feature.

The smaller floorplate of the ground floor sits within the main columns. Three spare bedrooms and a utility room are expressed as circular, clad objects – a reference to the Nissen huts that used to occupy the airfield, one of which survives. Porthole windows placed at lower than eye-height preserve a degree of privacy but allow views out to the airfield and landscape. 

The roof and wall cladding is mill-finished corrugated aluminium arranged as overlapping panels, a material which resonates with local farm cladding. The ridge is curved against the wind. The roof dominates the composition and responds to a local planning policy of permitting only houses of 1.5 storeys.

The main staircase is a two-storey spiral positioned to be seen in silhouette at the point where it is possible to look right through the house from north to south. A servant staircase from the garage and utility room to the kitchen is disguised behind the main fireplace in the living room. Underfloor heating is entirely powered by a woodchip boiler.

Richard Murphy, director, Richard Murphy Architects

Rma sa plans 01

Project data

Start on site May 2011
Completion date July 2018 (occupied May 2016)
Gross internal floor area 395m²
Form of contract or procurement route Construction Management Trade Contract (CM/TC)
Construction cost £400,000
Architect Richard Murphy Architects
Client Colin MacKinnon and Marta Briongos
Structural engineer Create Engineering
QS McLeod & Aitken
Main contractor Client
CAD software used AutoCAD

Rma sa sectional perspective


Readers' comments (3)

  • Excellent - but the exterior photos show a pristine building, and it'll be interesting to see how the mill finish aluminium weathers. Could've guessed who the wee airyplane belongs to.

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  • Industry Professional

    Lovely elevations, a bit of Glenn Murcutt in Scotland is a good idea.

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  • wasn't this on grand designs quite a few years ago?

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