Cheerfully idiosyncratic

It took a decade to complete, but the Grand Designs Strathaven Airfield project was worth the wait

By Hugh Metcalf | 5 November 2020

Colin MacKinnon and Marta Briongos’ Strathaven airfield home in South Lanarkshire, Scotland was voted one of the 10 best new buildings north of the border by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. Colin, who is a former journalist, together with his partner Marta, run a microlight flying school from the airfield. The RIAS judges described this steel and glass home and workspace as cheerfully idiosyncratic. They also said the ‘light, airy and joyful building’ fitted in perfectly with its semi‐industrial hangar neighbours. The couple have named the house Aluminia Meadownia because it’s clad in corrugated aluminium and the airfield looks like a wild flower meadow in summer.

grand designs tv house strathaven airfield

An aluminium sheet roof is screwed into steel beams. Photo: Douglas Gibb

The architect flies in

Before moving to the airfield full time, Colin commuted from their previous home in Glasgow. As he and Marta already owned the land, building a house on the site seemed a logical step. Edinburgh‐based architect Richard Murphy’s design inspiration came from local agricultural and airfield buildings, alongside the work of Australian architect Glenn Murcutt. Glenn is known for his rugged aesthetic and use of precision‐cut steel. Richard, a keen microlight pilot, flew himself to the site.

The silo-like structure looks out onto the Strathaven airfield

The silo-like structure on the front acts as a balcony with panoramic views. Photo: Douglas Gibb

Watch the episode: Strathaven Revisit, 2019

Three section layout

The first floor has the traditional 20th century Scottish layout of three sections. These include a bedroom and living room at either end of the space with the kitchen in the middle. This floor is where the couple spend most of their time. Consequently, the living room is overlooked by a mezzanine office platform, which Marta uses as an art studio. There’s even a swing for Marta to practice her aerial gymnastics. ‘I am an aerialist enthusiast and love to see the world upside down and hang from anything – and the beams are just too tempting!’ she said.

Bright coloured living area with exposed steel beams and stove pipes

Exposed steel beams and stove pipes combine with treasured family pieces. Photo: Douglas Gibb