Comunn Eachdraidh Nis / Ness Historical Society



ARCHITECTURE: Public Building




Comunn Eachdraidh Nis


In 1878, Cross Primary School was constructed on the Isle of Lewis featuring a large school-masters house, and three classrooms arranged in a horseshoe configuration.  Although this typology was typical for its time, Cross School remains one of the last of its kind in existence.
These buildings have been extended several times over its history, with parts currently in a state of dereliction.  The Commun Eachdraidh took over the buildings from CNES in 2011 and converted them to a museum, archive and artefact storage facilities as well as housing a cafĂ©. Despite this, the buildings remain mostly cellular in nature and without the inviting and presence necessary of a modern museum facility.
We were initially commissioned to bring the former schoolhouse and annex canteen buildings back into practical use.  Quickly it became apparent that an overhaul of the entire campus would be necessary in order to transform the buildings from school to modern museum facility.
Our proposals make incisions into the existing buildings where required, allowing spaces to be opened up to allow greater flexibility of use.  Some partial demolition will take place, with extensions added to create an open frontage whilst still allowing light to penetrate deep into the plan.
We have been careful to ensure that these works do not diminish the character of the existing buildings.  The new buildings vary in height, ensuring the parent volumes remain dominant whilst also providing a spacial sequence that is additive in nature.  The existing fenestration pattern is, wherever possible retained and adapted when required to form access points.
Following detailed contextual study, we have developed a strategy to introduce red brick to the design as a means of adding a degree of masonry / solidity to the extensions to compliment the stone gables  of the school and schoolhouse buildings. Externally, this brick forms a long, low horizontal cill, with a recessed panel adjacent to the main entrance (which is recessed back further under the zinc canopy)
This building is an emblem for Ness and the wider Isle of Lewis community. Our proposals, whilst extensive in their reach and ambition, will exert maximum effect and offer an exciting model for transformation of existing buildings that adapt to new uses.