Mission Improbable

So close…

Wanting to buy a building is one thing. Being able to do seemingly was another. Having now seen the building in the flesh so to speak, it made the protracted waiting period for all the legal work and searches to be completed, even harder to deal with! If nothing else, this project I’m sure will teach me patience and perseverance!

The Mission Hall and bus shelter on the Isle of Lewis
The Mission Hall and bus shelter on the Isle of Lewis

However, this hiatus period wasn’t wasted. It gave me time to start dreaming dreams and developing some potential ideas for the building.

Measure first

Having made sure to try and get as many essential dimensions as I could on my brief initial visit, it was time to start drawing up some of the ideas rattling around in my head. I’m a bit nerdy in this respect, but I do love taking sketches and making them into scale drawings. It helps me process and refine design ideas into possible options.

time to turn my sketched dimensions into scale drawings
time to turn my sketched dimensions into scale drawings

It was a small space, approx only 35sqm in total. This was my design canvas. This was my challenge. What could I make of it? One thing soon became clear. My initial guestimates when making my early models of the building were reasonably close to the actual sizes. All except for one key, and unfortunately vital, component for my ideas. The pitch of the roof.

It wasn’t quite as steep as I had initially guessed. The shallower pitch could make it very tricky to get the required headroom for a workable mezzanine level in the building. I would need to get a more accurate measurement of the roof pitch to see if it was possible to do it at all.

an early model making idea
an early model-making idea

Design inspiration

Of all of the things that I experienced on my first trip to see the building in the Outer Hebrides, an odd little detail stood out in my mind. I guess it might seem pretty incidental to some, but I loved the splayed internal sides or reveals of the window openings. It inspired the angled nature of the edge of the mezzanine floor concept. I believe these angled reveals are called an Embrasure.

Created originally to allow more light or give a better view, or in the case of military fortifications, to create a better line of fire. In this instance, they allowed more light into the Mission Hall, as well as providing a wider angle of view. Such a simple yet clever architectural device.

small details – loved the embrasure (splayed window reveals)
small details – loved the embrasure (splayed window reveals)

They work here in part because the walls of the building are just so thick! They are built of solid stone around 500–600mm thick. This building was built to last and withstand the extreme wind conditions the Outer Hebrides often experience.

The Mission Hall is in Ness near the Butt of Lewis at the northern tip of the Isle of Lewis. The area is renowned for its wild and windswept landscape. It has witnessed some of the strongest winds ever recorded in the United Kingdom.

In 1962, the Butt of Lewis played a significant role in setting a world record for wind speed.

The World Record Wind Gust: A Historic Event

On January 1, 1962, an extreme weather event struck the Butt of Lewis, bringing with it an unprecedented display of nature’s power. A wind gust with a remarkable speed of 133.6 miles per hour (215.9 kilometres per hour) was recorded at the weather station located on the tip of the headland. This extraordinary wind speed established a world record at the time and remains one of the highest wind gusts ever recorded in the United Kingdom.

Hidden problems

Going over the photos from my first visit there were other more obvious problems to contend with as well. There were odd patterned areas of dampness in the building walls. These would need to be investigated to find out what the underlying issue was. Sometimes this can unearth more serious issues to deal with. Another something unknown to factor into the project. This particular list was growing at a concerning rate!

ominous signs – what lurks beneath?
ominous signs – what lurks beneath?

On my first visit to the Mission Hall, I found that one of the windows was broken. I assume by birds flying into the glass. Unfortunately, there were two dead and decaying birds I had to clear out of the building on that visit! Not the the most endearing of tasks if I’m honest.

Fortunately, when I returned for my final visit before leaving, the window had been boarded up by a member of the church. At least it would be secure and weatherproof. Being broken was not a huge problem, as they all desperately needed replacing anyway.

broken window had quickly been boarded up
a broken window had quickly been boarded up

Nothing to see

Good to go through the various photos again. It was good to see some of the more positive aspects of the building’s location. I especially loved the view from the rear of the building. Uninterrupted panoramic views of nothing – in my eyes that’s pure bliss. The immediate area behind the Mission Hall was a croft, and beyond that, a wild moorland as far as the eyes could see.

uninterrupted panoramic views of nothing – bliss
uninterrupted panoramic views of nothing – bliss

For some that might be a bit bleak or uninteresting. But I love its raw and expansive wild beauty. Combine that with the ever-changing spectacular cloudscapes and that’s something I would never tire of seeing.

Say what?

By this time I had begun to lose track of how long the process was taking to complete. Then one sunny summer day, I got an email with the news I had been waiting so long for. The deal was done, the paperwork was completed and an exchange date could now be set to take ownership. I was about to become the owner of a Mission Hall in the Outer Hebrides!

camping in my vintage split screen bus in Germany
camping in my vintage split-screen bus in Germany

Unfortunately, I was on a European road trip and camping at a vintage VW car show in Hessisch Oldendorf in Germany at the time. Looks like when I get back, I’ll be making another road trip. This time to a Mission Hall in the Outer Hebrides. A building that was suddenly about to become mine at last!

  • Christine Macleod

    It’s looking great Chris and you are very much part of our church and community


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