Wrap up of the Prince’s Foundation Summer School

Hello again! I’ve returned from the UK fully enlightened on traditional building craft with callused hands and further design experience. To catch up with the first part of the summer school I was doing, read up here!

The final week of the Summer School brought together our knowledge and practice into application through the design of a summer house within the walled garden on the Dumfries Estate. The first day, we met with multiple stakeholders heavily invested in the estate and the changes that will take place within it. Despite my trouble understanding thick Scottish accents, we learned that garden summer houses on classic estates throughout Scotland were traditionally used as places to take shelter from the elements and for landowners and gardeners to survey the land and gardens, examining their work and bounty, as well as to take shelter from the elements.

Our design in progress

This summer house is just one piece of a larger plan for the regeneration of the Dumfries House Estate. Check out the other buildings on site and how they were once used and will be used in the future. The vision that His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales and the community have for the estate involves the restoration of each and every structure on site. As funding and opportunities become available throughout this process, the community is involved in discussion and decision-making concerning which projects to pursue and how to go about making the buildings not only relics of the past, but structures functional for the future. Plans for the estate seek to use only traditional craftsmanship and materials, keeping the quality of traditional craft and materials of the past alive. Anticipated functions of the buildings will be for educational and employment opportunities such as meeting spaces for non-profit organizations, or community garden space like that which will be surrounding the summer house within the larger walled garden area. The estate also includes a new sustainable housing development just a short walk from the town of Cumnock. Though not without criticism, including my very own doubts, this development is intended to bring additional housing to the area and be constructed using traditional craft and materials following the precedent set by the Dumfries House Estate centuries before. The regeneration of the Dumfries House Estate is not just self-serving. Its goals and intentions reach beyond the estate lands and throughout the surrounding Scottish countryside. The vision has potential for the area that could be a model for North America.

Our design

After gaining a thorough understanding of the goals set out for our design and the parameters within which we were to work, our collective group of 27 was separated into nine groups, each with a craftsman, an architect, and a planner or other related professional, we quickly began brainstorming our ideas and how to incorporate not only the ideas and preferences from stakeholders, but also all of the traditional skills of each of the craftsmen, since they will be constructing the winning design for the summer house in the fall.

A garden perspective of our design

We scrambled to produce the best design possible with such limited time, and on Wednesday of the final week, the public was invited to vote on the nine designs, narrowing the options down to five, which were to be narrowed down to a single winning design by public vote again on Friday. My initial group was absolutely fantastic! I was placed with Alex Ewan, a Part 1 Architect student from Suffolk, and Samuel James-Wilson, an enthusiastic bricklayer from Harrogate and a current building craft apprentice with the Prince’s Foundation. (You should read Sam’s fantastic blog here. He’s got an excellent account of the summer school as well!). Want to know how to make really great friends fast? Professionally design a building together in two days. That’s how! The three of us worked hard to design our vision for the summer house, which included a green roof, detailed and historical pargetting, a teaching deck surrounding the house, and a unique skylight feature. On Wednesday, we pinned up our design, I led the group presentation, and the public voted us to the finals! The Prince even commented personally on our designs! It was really encouraging!

Detailed brick, stone, and timber work

The next day, we gained three additional group members to lead our design to the final vote on Friday. We worked endlessly to produce something that we all were very proud of and attached to. By the final day, our confidence was strong, and we were sure we were in the running for construction. After all, our summer house design was the only one with a green roof. It stood out among the other beautiful designs. On Friday, the public was invited to the estate once again, this time, a bit more formally, with full on powerpoint presentations and more time for us to convince them our design was the best.

Our presentation, though short and sweet, was the best of the five groups, if I don’t say so myself. I felt that we blew it out of the water with each of our group members saying a few words, and Sam concluding with some heartfelt remarks on our time at Dumfries.

Our little model

Sadly, my group’s design did not get the most votes, but I felt that we came in a close second! The other designs were absolutely stunning, and the amount of the work going into each in such limited time was incredible. Being surrounded by such talented people for three whole weeks was truly an honor and the experience of a lifetime. I recommend the Summer School to anyone with the slightest interest in traditional architecture, historic preservation, or urbanism. I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to the SFU Urban Studies program and the donors that made my trip possible.

My fantastic group in front of our fantastic final design (From L to R: Catriona Forbes, Samuel James-Wilson, Alex Ewan, Stephen Jefferson, Megan Doole, myself)

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