The realisation of the Garrison House project on the small island of Cumbrae off the west coast of Scotland, is a triumph for a small community who fought to save a building that has been part of the town’s lifeblood for over 200 years. Although left derelict since 1997 and almost destroyed by fire in 2001, the community were undaunted, and with generous funding in place set about restoring the historic building.
Originally built as a small garrison for revenue ship officers in 1745, the building expanded and evolved through rich and varying guises including being remodeled as the home of the Marquis of Bute, and in the 20th Century becoming a convalescence home during the Wars, then housing the council services for the island up to its demise in the 1990s.
Due to the precarious state of the building, much of the funding was allocated for the conservation of the fabric. However, in order to meet 21st Century expectations and satisfy budgetary constraints, the team were forced to creatively integrate both contemporary and traditional building methods. The basic design completely reconstructs the exterior, much of the complex roof layout and the formal rooms around the perimeter of the building, extensively replicating historical architectural detail. However the boldest move was to liberate the centre of the building from the strict Victorian plan and the heart of the building now opens up to create a fluid space through from the entrance to the courtyard. The new glazed atrium, almost completely hidden from the outside, houses the local museum and acts as a hub for all the different functions including the library, surgery and council services.
The building has been truly revitalised to once again support the local community and provide a vibrant focal point for all visitors to the island.