Fishing for compliments

Yesterday evening at the Wood Awards ceremony, The Fishing Hut, designed by Niall McLaughlin Architects, won not only its category (private) but also the top prize, the Arnold Laver Gold Award.

Yesterday evening at the Wood Awards ceremony, The Fishing Hut, designed by Niall McLaughlin Architects, won not only its category (private) but also the top prize, the Arnold Laver Gold Award. Despite the importance of the judging visits, if you had taken a straw poll of the judges at the start of the process, asking which project would take the trophy, we would probably have plumped for this one. We all expected it to be fabulous – and all the judging visit did was tell us that it was even better than we had hoped.

There was a wonderful piece of theatre as we approached the building, viewing it across the lake. The contractor, Inwood Developments, had a man stationed inside who pressed the switch so that the timber shutters all opened as we walked towards it. Impressive, but not what decided the judges.

What was so fantastic was that the building had been thought about in every detail. Inwood, which made the oak glulam frame and in fact took on the entire construction, is as perfectonist as Niall McLaughlin. The representative from the company explained that he hated the look of visible fixings so everything was fixed secretly. Every element has been thought about, detailed obsessively and carried through into construction.

This is a wonderful lesson in just how marvellous design and construction can be. Few buildings will reach this level of perfection, and probably never could. Because the Fishing Hut is very simple. It is in effect just a shelter, with an outdoor shower plus a small kitchen and bathroom. It is rated as an agricultural building, with no insulation except in the roof. This means that you can truly express the structure and the cladding externally and internally. And you don’t have to deal with the messiness of everyday life – with a place for the washing machine, with where to store the kids’ toys, with the service entrance or the laundry chute. 

So the Fishing Hut’s perfection is just not reproducible in most instances – but the dedication and aspiration of client, architect and contractor certainly should be. If all buildings strove to be as good as this, few would succeed – but our built environment would benefit enormously from the aspiration.

Ruth Slavid

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