An t-Eilean (The Island)


Lisa MacKenzie
University of Edinburgh


Portfolio, Practice Based, landscape, architecture, garden, Inverness


An t-Eilean (The Island, Gaelic) is an open-air, multi-purpose space (16 metres square) that occupies a central position in Inverness Campus for the University of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.The space unites sculpture, building, and garden to form a distinctive landscape. Visitors experience An t’Eilean as a floating courtyard open to the sky and the surrounding landscape and connected to the land by a timber boardwalk. The project challenges scale and collapses normative design practices to unite architecture and landscape in ways that are subtle and sensitive to the rhythms of the days and seasons. An t-Eilean is a built ‘concept’ and an interstice – a constructed translation of the designer’s knowledge of theory and her landscape architectural practice. Mackenzie worked with leading expert David Bennett on the concrete specification for An t-Eilean. The concrete mix uses a by-product from coal-fired power stations called Pulverised Fuel Ash (PFA), to promote material re-use in construction. The mix allows a range of surface finishes to manifest through the structure, capturing and animating different qualities of light and shadow through the space. The project was presented and received input and approval from a wide range of stakeholders involved in the Campus development. The design was exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 2014 before its completion. Over 20,000 people viewed the designs of just ten architects, including MacKenzie, selected for the exhibition, which aimed to explore the relationship between architecture, art and landscape. The design was awarded the Landscape Institute Scotland, Public Vote Prize in 2015. Mackenzie has been invited to talk about this project internationally to professional and educational groups in Amsterdam (2013), Xiamen (2016) and Oslo (2019).

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30 May 2024


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.