Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Built by Friends: A Community Dining Hall on the Isle of Mull

Search

Built by Friends: A Community Dining Hall on the Isle of Mull

David Barbour April 24, 2023

Jeanette Cutlack relocated from Brighton to the Isle of Mull in 2008. She had visited the island just once a few months previously: “That was the first time I’d even been to Scotland,” she recalls. “I was only there for a couple of nights, but when I returned to Brighton with my then-husband, we decided we should move there. I just knew that that landscape was what I was meant look at for the rest of my life. And that was it.”

croft 3, jeanette&#8\2\17;s community dining hall, on the isle of mull. vis 17
Above: Croft 3, Jeanette’s community dining hall, on the Isle of Mull. Visitors approach from the road above and behind, the long black roofs of the building appearing lower than the sea and Ulva beyond.

Jeanette’s first job on the island was making breakfasts in a local café. For a time, she also ran a bed and breakfast from her rented farmhouse. (With a population of under 3000, the island relies heavily on tourism. In the summer months, it’s not unusual for islanders to work multiple jobs in order to survive the winter months when visitor numbers decline.) One evening, Jeanette had seven cyclists staying with her. They were ravenous and in search of an evening meal. The capital, Tobermory, was a 45-minute drive; the nearest pub 25 minutes away; so she offered to make them a pie and a tray of brownies herself. “It was magic,” she recalls. That was the summer of 2013. By the beginning of 2014, she’d transformed part of her home into a convivial—if crowded—restaurant.

During her first decade on the island, Jeanette would often walk past a dilapidated croft set low in the landscape. Hunkered below the road, the roofless basalt barn had uninterrupted views across Loch Tuath bay to the Isle of Ulva. “For ten years, I would walk past the barn and imagine sheep on the hillside and food growing next to the barn,” Jeanette explains.

Jeanette’s home restaurant was fully booked for five years. “It opened up my world,” she says, still incredulous. At the start of 2019, having saved and saved, she approached the elderly woman who owned the croft (which includes 50 acres of land) and arranged to buy it from her.

Whilst living in Brighton in her late teens, Jeanette worked at the local cinema with Edward Farleigh-Dastmalchi, who was studying architecture at Sussex University. The friends stayed in touch over the years, and so when Jeanette became the owner of Croft 3, she asked Edward to come and visit what would be the site of her new community dining hall and—eventually—her new home.

croft 3, so called because it is the third of five crofts on the torloisk estat 18
Above: Croft 3, so called because it is the third of five crofts on the Torloisk Estate.

The friends first explored the basalt ruin together in the summer of 2019. Edward recalls beating back the bracken in order to reach the barn, which was gradually being reclaimed by nature. They took a walk down to the water’s edge, which is fringed by high reeds, a gnarled ancient woodland to one side, an unexplained stone circle to the other. “It just seemed like such an incredible site,” Edwards says. “So full of possibilities.” At the time, Edward was working full time for Karakusevic Carson Architects; the croft became a side project.

early on in the research phase, the friends visited a small chapel on the isle  19
Above: Early on in the research phase, the friends visited a small chapel on the Isle of Iona. “It was a relatively tiny chapel with a stone floor and rough plaster walls. It was just so raw,” Edward recalls. “From that, we got this sense that a really humble building could still feel really inspiring, so we kept that in the back of our minds as we developed the design.”
edward’s challenge was to design a new extension for the foyer, kitchen, 20
Above: Edward’s challenge was to design a new extension for the foyer, kitchen, and visitor facilities “that didn’t feel as if it was just a sort of underwhelming lean-to.” By exploring the island and studying the farmsteads that are huddled into the landscape, he devised two offset pitched volumes that echo the twin hillscapes of Ulva across the bay.
windows were edward’s next big challenge—specifically, how to int 21
Above: Windows were Edward’s next big challenge—specifically, how to integrate openings without undermining the character of the original building. His approach was to create a model of the surrounding landscape so he could envisage the view from each window.

The window openings are set at seated eye level. “Jeanette’s home restaurant was so convivial, and I wanted to transport some of that character to the croft,” Edward explains. “As a result, the natural light is generally focused on the lower level. As you enter the space, you’re aware of this large void above, but as you’re sitting and chatting and eating, you feel enclosed in your own intimate bubble.”

windows set deep into the heavily insulated walls have been chamfered—pa 22
Above: Windows set deep into the heavily insulated walls have been chamfered—partly to exaggerate the perspective of the opening but also to increase the visibility from each seated position. The finishing coat of plaster was also omitted and the corners rounded off by hand without the use of metal beading, “which would have made the edges feel too new, too sharp.”

The room is plainly furnished with reclaimed French cafe chairs, brewers’ benches, and six communal dining tables made on the island from a single Douglas fir tree. (The maximum capacity in the space is 48.) Ply and raw plaster wrap the walls. “We made a virtue of the cost effectiveness of those materials,” Edward explains. “We wanted people to feel as though they could come in here in their muddy boots with their wet coats. We didn’t want it to feel too rarefied or precious. This really plays into that idea that this is a place for everyone, that it’s a community space as much as it is a restaurant.”

a robust white skirting board protects the base of the plaster. “practic 23
Above: A robust white skirting board protects the base of the plaster. “Practically, Jeanette will need to be able to touch up the building from time to time—but this white band also acts as a register for all the other textures in the space,” Edward explains.
a view of the exterior of croft 3. 24
Above: A view of the exterior of Croft 3.

Planning permission for Croft 3 was relatively easy to secure. “We got 80 letters of support for the restaurant and 40 for the house,” explains Jeanette, who, in a “bittersweet twist of fate”, sadly lost both her parents during the build. “But the croft isn’t isn’t just about the restaurant,” she explains. “Now, it’s about bringing the land back to life, clearing the brambles so that I can plant trees and vegetables. There is a bigger picture.”

the repaired lime mortar and basalt walls. 25
Above: The repaired lime mortar and basalt walls.

For Edward, Croft 3 is the first completed project for Fardaa, the London-based architecture practice he founded in 2019. “This was a really different scale from anything I’d done before,” Edward explains. “I’ve worked on enormous, complex buildings at David Chipperfield; I’ve designed hundreds of homes at Karakusevic Carson and Alison Brooks, but here the location, the scale, the usage—everything was different. Really I had to learn an entirely different design process.” It’s through that process that the project has come to embody Fardaa’s holistic approach to design.

the succinct menu is made up of locally sourced island produce including lobste 26
Above: The succinct menu is made up of locally sourced island produce including lobster, smoked trout, pork, wild garlic, and rhubarb.

From this month, Croft 3 will be open for long Sunday lunches and evening meals three or four nights a week. Hungry locals and visitors alike will be able to bring their own bottle of wine along, hang up their coats, and huddle around the tables, savoring the space created by two friends.

For much more, follow @croft3mull.

(Visited 1,624 times, 1 visits today)
You need to login or register to view and manage your bookmarks.

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

v5.0