Traditionally, the area’s farmhouses have been four-winged affairs and, in adding to the existing three-wing building, the architects have positioned the new extension to provide a fourth side to shelter the exposed courtyard. The two previous examples given here can be seen in their forms to be without architectural precedent but here the intention has been to create a sculptural re-interpretation of the region's indigenous building culture, i.e. to root it in its place and time, pointing to the future whilst also referencing its past: genius loci indeed.
The roof planes and walls of the updated visitor centre are formed from long lengths of Robinia, a hardwood species that is both robust and resistant to fungi and termites (and here blackened to avoid the kind of colour variation that can be caused by differential weathering) whilst those of the new, seaward-facing exhibition building reach almost to the ground and are comprised entirely of thickly bedded thatch. The material here is unusual and appropriate to its natural situation: harvested from nearby fields, the thatch takes on salt from the sea air whilst drying, a process not dissimilar to traditional methods of preserving fish. Hung from lightweight timber panels supported by a steel frame, the straw was laid, sewed and patted into the final roof forms and walls by a team of eleven thatchers to deliver the timeless, hand-finished effect synonymous with this weather-dependent craft.
Architecture, as universally taught nowadays, rarely includes instruction on the properties, uses and techniques involved in traditional construction. In this context, these three very different, but very modern, buildings demonstrate exemplary contemporary use of natural materials in natural environments. They are, in effect, applied research projects from which others can learn and perhaps seek to surpass.