The Lighthouse

Location: Hynish, Isle of Tiree

Client: Tog Studio

Type: Temporary Viewing Tower

Completed: June 2012


  • Roots
  • Jo Murphy
  • Neil Boyd

Industry Support:

The Lighthouse was our very first 'live-build' project run through our construction school Tog Studio.

Click here to see a film of this project under construction.

As young architects and engineers, we were eager to gain first hand experience of the construction process. We believed that this would be a hugely valuable learning opportunity for ourselves and others like us who felt that this had been missing from our academic training.

The Lighthouse was a temporary viewing tower constructed in celebration of Engineer Alan Stevenson, designer of Skerryvore Lighthouse. The project was based at Hynish, a settlement used by the Stevenson's team of stonemasons during the construction of Skerryvore Lighthouse, 11 miles South West of Tiree. Given the history of Hynish and its relationship to Stevenson’s Skerryvore, we were inspired to design a lighthouse of their own which would act as a beacon for our ambitions whilst offering new elevated views over Stevenson's infrastructure at Hynish.

The structure of the lighthouse was to be temporary and designed around standard 4800mm lengths of timber. This minimised the necessary sawing on site. A pair of frames, 4800mm high and 2400mm wide, were constructed of C16 Scottish Sitka Spruce, supplied by BSW Timber Group. The frames were laid out on a 2400mm square plan and tied together with 195 x 45mm cross-beams using 114mm Timberloks.  The frames were raised into position by hand and inspired by Walter Segal's self-build timber frames.

Guidance on site was hands-off enough for people to make their own decisions on how to resolve things or learn techniques.
— Kathy Li, Year 3 Stage Leader, MSA

The need for excessive foundations was minimised due to the temporary nature of the build; each post sat on blinded bedrock while trays filled with local beach sand and perimeter Spirafix Ground Anchors kept the structure in place.
Cladding was provided by 4800mm long vertical timber fins, with concealed fixings from the inside, at approximately 200mm centres to give the building a changing sense of solidity as the tower was circumnavigated.

The challenge of working safely at height was overcome with the use of internal platforms which spanned between the frames and cross- beams. These platforms were built sequentially from bottom to top, negating the need for scaffolding and limiting the amount of work done on ladders.
The platforms, which included a deck made of 18mm ply, tied the structure together. Intermediate steps were added between platforms to break up the change in level and create a helical ascent to the top; imagined as a spiral staircase rising to the top of the lighthouse.

The build was completed over six days by a team of students, architects and engineers from across the country. Those involved agreed that the project had been a great success in providing valuable hands on learning experience for anyone with a passion to build.

There’s definitely a place in architectural education to be more making-focused.”
— Andrew Brown, Brown + Brown