Isle of Tiree Architects

Who we are…

Roots Design Workshop is a professionally accredited architectural practice. We specialise in contemporary designs of traditional rural buildings. We formed in 2009 and our aim has been to make our services available to the isolated and under-served communities in rural Scotland.


What we do…

We offer architectural design and project management services.  We have experience of working on restorations, alterations, renovations, extensions and new builds. Our Clients range from private individuals to public national bodies. We work on…

  • Feasibility studies
  • Planning permissions
  • Building warrants
  • Technical specification packages
  • Project management on site.


How we do it…

It may be an obvious thing to say, but it is worth saying, that we put our Client’s first. We believe we are here to help our Client’s fulfil their ambitions for their projects. We put a good Client relationship at the forefront of all our projects. A big part of what we do is listen to the Client’s needs so we can understand them and ultimately deliver them as best we can.

We also embark on regular tours of remote and isolated rural places in our mobile office, the Archivan. These tours allow us to learn about the places we visit at first hand so we are constantly building up our knowledge. We regularly host drop-in workshops on these tours where people can approach us for free, no obligation design advice on any building project they might have.


Our experiences on the Isle of Tiree…

Professionally, Tiree is an island of firsts for Roots Design Workshop.  We hosted our first workshop here, we were given our first appointment here and our first completed project is here.  Roots Design Workshop would not exist if it was not for the people of Tiree and it is therefore a very special place for us.

But Tiree is not just a series of projects and building sites for us; it also our home. Micheal, one of Roots Design Workshop’s Directors, is from Tiree. We have therefore benefited from his first hand experience of the island and been able to fully appreciate the delights of the place, from walking along Balephuil beach, through dancing at ceildhs at An Talla, to helping at the annual cattle sale.

We value the island so much that we decided to use Tiree, and in particular the Hynish centre, as the base for an architectural summer school we helped establish in 2012. We are hoping therefore to have a long and lasting relationship with Tiree and its people.


What we’ve learnt about the Isle of Tiree…

Tiree has been described as ‘Rìoghachd barr fo thuinn’; ‘the Kingdom whose summits are lower than the waves’*.  We would not disagree; the hard low lying terrain creates a gives Tiree a special atmosphere and a unique environment.

This environment has lead to the development of a unique architectural typology; the Tiree thatched house – ‘taigh tughaidh’. These buildings are the perfect synthesis of history, landscape, materials, craft, and weather. Their character remains important to this day, as their long, low, narrow profile; thick stone walls; thatched roofs; and recessed eaves and openings form the perfect precedent for any building on the island.

More than the thatched houses, Tiree also contains the remains of other building types unique to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland; including the Broch at Vaul.  Combined, they illustrate the long relationship man has had with the island and the different solutions people have come up with to living here.

The people of Tiree have maintained a close relationship with the land and sea, with fishing and crofting being traditional ways of life. As a result, buildings are dispersed and evenly distributed. The flat undulating terrain means they sit prominently, and often individual building terraces have developed as byres, workshops and sheds were added to the main cottage in a line. This gives Tiree a distinctive landscape.

We understand that our designs have to fit in visually with this landscape, but they also have to perform to the highest standards possible. Our practice combines a knowledge of traditional approaches to building design with modern day materials and techniques that we believe help make our buildings perfectly suited to the conditions on Tiree.

*P.393, The Old Statistical Account 1791, Number 29 by Rev A McColl.


Our work on the Isle of Tiree…

We have undertaken work all over Tiree and on a range of different projects. Our portfolio includes a renovation of a blackhouse in Balemartine, a new build single storey bungalow in Vaul, an alteration of a one-and-a-half storey white house Balephuil, a new build house in Caolas, and a sunroom extension in Kenovay.

We have also been fortunate enough to work with some of Tiree’s most ‘picture postcard’ buildings; including the historic water mill in Cornaig, and the Grade B listed thatched terrace at Sandaig.

Our portfolio extends beyond private commissions, as we have also worked with a number of local businesses and community organisations including the Tiree Community Development Trust, Tiree Community Business, Tiree Rural Development, Tiree Baptist Church and An Iodhlann.

Through our personal and professional experience of Tiree we believe we have a strong understanding of what it is like to live and work on the island.  We therefore know what our buildings have to achieve. We believe that we are able to deliver buildings that meet modern standards of living and performance while respecting the surrounding landscape and the island’s built heritage.


Useful resources…

Starting out on a building project can be daunting. The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland website has a number of services available to the public that you might find useful, whether you are considering your first or your latest building project.


Become a Client…

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have a project you would like to discuss.


Back to Places page

Tiree Architect Photo