Out with the old…

Interior clearout

I might not have any electricity or other basic services at the moment, but there’s still work that can be done. It was time to start clearing the mission hall furniture out to see the real space I’d got to work with. For this, the pews needed to get broken down and the existing interior stripped right back.

Original interior picture from the Estate Agents of the Small Mission Hall
Original interior picture from the Estate Agents of the Small Mission Hall

The pews were not ornate pieces of oak with elaborate decorative carvings. These were far more utilitarian bench seats. The Mission Hall would have been built with more modest funds using basic available materials. They may not be fancy, but they are part of the building’s heritage and existing narrative.

Not fancy, but still part of the buildings heritage
Not fancy, but still part of the building’s heritage

Reduce | reuse | recycle

These were all important aspects of the building character that I wanted to try and reference in some way through the redesign. I wanted to try and incorporate or repurpose items from the mission hall’s past into its future.

I wasn’t sure how at this stage. I just knew the wood from the pews needed to be used (somewhere/somehow) in its future refurbishment.

Psalm hymnals and Gaelic Bibles from the Mission Halls previous life
Psalm hymnals and Gaelic Bibles from the Mission Hall’s previous life

I planned to break the pews down and initially store them until I worked out exactly what they could be reused for. If nothing else, they would be a good source of solid aged timber to reimagine or repurpose into aspects of the building’s interior refurbishment.

Design Inspiration

I wanted to embrace and celebrate the building’s character, materials and construction. Even with some of the left-behind items I discovered there. Like the Gaelic Bibles and Psalms hymnals. I’ve already got some thoughts on how these might be used in the future too.

At this stage, everything had design potential for me!

making a start on the pew removal
making a start on the pew removal

Like a blank sheet of paper, making your first mark is often the hardest. So it is with taking apart a usable interior. Time to start the deconstruction phase of the refurbishment. Once you start, there’s no going back…

the crowbar is my new best friend
the crowbar is my new best friend

New best friend

Fortunately being both detached and remote, there was no issue making noise at pretty much any time of the day or night. So me, a hammer and my new best friend, the crowbar, set to work. I tried to break stuff down keeping the various constituent parts as intact as I could wherever possible.

More often or not on building refurbishments, everything gets ripped out in double quick time and is then simply thrown out in a skip. This just feels way too wasteful to me. Constantly adding to landfill is not good for the environment!

the space is getting finally getting cleared
the space is finally getting cleared

My approach would be slower, but hopefully will pay dividends in the long run. I want to utilise and repurpose as much of the existing materials as I can.

It was great to see the space finally become clearer bit by bit. It gave a much better sense of the potential available space, like a design canvas becoming revealed.

mission hall interior is finally clear-ish
mission hall interior is finally clear-ish

Good progress

All work and no play is not good for the soul. Having made good progress in the mission hall, it was nice to take a bit of time out and explore the islands some more whilst the weather was good. It’s supposed to be a fun project, not a chore!

Traigh na Beirghe – Reef Beach
Traigh na Beirghe – Reef Beach

As it would be time to be heading back, it made sense to sort some easy-win jobs out before leaving. Although I like to reuse as much as possible, some things are just a bit too far gone. They simply need replacing. So time for a new door lock in this instance.

The door lock is a bit beyond repair
The door lock is a bit beyond repair

Many meetings

I arranged a meeting with the local council planning and building control departments. They were very helpful and even arranged a site visit to see the building first-hand. My local authority dealings in the Western Isles had been very positive so far. A massive contrast to my experiences in England unfortunately.

Whilst here, it made sense to speak with different local tradespeople to get an idea of the costs and feasibility of some of my ideas in my head. Ideas are one thing, but the reality and costs are another.

I also found out about getting the mission hall registered as a building and put on the national address database systems.

becoming a real building – letterbox fitted
becoming a real building – letterbox fitted

Getting it registered and on the system required the building to have a name or number. Not every building here had a number, some were just a name. Speaking with local people, I wanted to find out what the building was locally known as. It soon became clear there was a consensus and a clear winner emerged.

No building number is needed, it was known locally as the Small Mission Hall. That’s good enough for me!

One of the requirements was for mail to be able to be delivered to the building. It needed to have some form of letterbox. Another easy win job I could sort out.

Having established its postal address identity, I couldn’t help but come up with its own visual design identity too!

Name not a number

Small Mission Hall was the name I have now registered the building with the local authority and Post Office. Way cooler than having a number!

With the registration process sorted, I even got to receive my very first letter in my newly fitted post box! Amazing to be happy just to receive my very first letter at the ’new’ address!

staircase design – drawing ideas without a pencil
staircase design – drawing ideas without a pencil

It was really helpful just to spend time at the building. To get a proper feel for the place, understand environmental factors (wind) better. All will inform the eventual design process and outcome.

Still working out design ideas at the moment for the Small Mission Hall moving forward. If you want to see how this building design project all turns out, feel free to subscribe for ongoing updates… you can even add/follow me on Instagram if you want…

So what do you think?

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