Taransay Island - Harris - Outer Hebrides - Scotland
First visit - 4th Sep 1999
Returning to Paible for the Boat to Harris.
The derelict school house on Taransay prior to Castaway 2000
Signs of a productive inhabited Island .
Croft Enclosure wall in Earth and Runrigs at Paible ( Main village ) -
4th Sep 1999
Evacuation or clearance - A question Taransay shared with Saint Kilda.
A reinterpreted Boat Stove designed specifically for the Taransay Pods by Andrew McAvoy
The device that kept everyone challenged, everyone alive and which made Peat, driftwood and Sea Coal currency.
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Tarbert Stores - The last outpost on the mainland of Harris ...Where Alex John Morrisson would advise on building in weather ....whilst weighing your Nails
Alex John Morrison
A nail on Taransay was once precious
Distribution of village components.
Original Pod concept drawing by A McAvoy nov 1999
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Drawing by Castaway Sheila Jowers showing Pods, Steading and Schoolhouse in working order during the Castaway year.
Approach Elevation of Castaway Pod
Designed and Drawn by Andrew McAvoy
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Rear Elevation of Castaway Pod
for Taransay Island.
Designed and Drawn by
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Taransay Island - Harris - Western Isles - Scotland
Once upon a time Taransay was covered in buildings that applied this Earth sheltered technology appropriate for a Northern Climate.
"In designing the village I wanted the essence of adventure in the architecture ..so leaned heavily on images that embraced that. " Scott's Antartic Hut was of more relevance than any modern British kit building system "
Speeding things up during manufacture in October 1999
Image by A McAvoy
Schoolhouse as found and before adaptive reuse
The school house saved and brought back into educational use.
The school house saved and brought back into education use.
The Castaway Kids in front of their school house.once complete.
The School house with its new Catslide tin roof over the Kids compost toilet. Winter water colour
by Sheila Jowers
in an Area of National Scenic Beauty even the Polytunnels required a Planning application
Cataway Pods - Water colour by Castaway - Sheila Jowers.
Hilary and Julie sheering
The journalists sneak on and stage a shot - Ben Tania + Philly
Philly feeding the Castaway animals
Island Plan by Sheila Jowers
Notes on the experiment by Andrew McAvoy
On the 4th September 1999 I flew to the Western Isles to meet a TV Crew planning a BBC Stunt.- Castaway 2000
The conversation with Lion Television Scotland's series Producer - Chris Kelly went something like this . "We are proposing to bring a cross section of British society to a deserted Island called Taransay ....we need to construct a village in the next 12 weeks for occupation throughout the year 2000, We want to observe via this experiment ..what state society finds itself in, as we cross over the millenium ...we hear you can work in remote places and tackle Self Build ...will you be able to advise us ....on the suitability of this Island for inhabitation "
I said yes and was taken by boat from mainland Harris that afternoon along with - Psychologist Cynthia McVey and Ex Pacific Castaway Lucy Irvine.
I was instructed to start immediately with the Island and Cynthia with the new Castaways.
I then delivered via my practice then called Blast architects- the make shift village gently into an area of National Scenic Beauty and in time for the experiment to begin. Cynthia prepared the Castaways for Community living in extreme conditions. We had 12 weeks and had to have the village in place by the first day of 2000.
It was never to be a refined Architecture opportunity ... It was however destined to be a place to experiment and to advance the ethos of Walter Segal - That of - all minds switched on and all hands on deck....till we are done, ... !"
The television remit was to create a framework that the Castaways could contribute to, both before the start of the year and during. Although it was a kind of stage set it needed to be functional. Lion Television were to be rigorous in pursuing authenticity.
Note - ( Give or take 10 days when the Castaways were enrolled to get cracking and finish their abodes ...the village was against all odds - in place and inhabitable. - (24 Castaways stayed and helped + 12 went to a hotel in Harris and arrived some weeks after the start of the experiment )
Renovations and reinventions of some neglected building stock were undertaken . Processes that embraced Self Build were employed as a priority. These included consolidating, roofing and bringing back to life - the Islands schoolhouse on the beach head. The schoolhouse had been destroyed in increments by successive winter storms since the Island was cleared in 1932 , - a granite steading and a Farmhouse used seasonally by the islands owners the Mackay's in tending Sheep and Deer were also consolidated and upgraded.
There were no services on the Island and it was to include the implementation of an entirely renewable and removable - Renewable Energy system. All toileting was to be separated . All solids composted and all water taken to reed beds . Archaeology prevailed and was to be respected.
Extreme Energy adviser Hugh Piggott from the planning free-zone of Scoraig was made busy on a renewable electrical system. I had to conjure a heating system based on solid fuel and on the premise that there would be no spare electric power.
The practice had to devise a water source, a means of bringing it to the village and for storing it.
The Castaways were to create their own Polytunnel's. a slaughter house , enclosures etc.
The skeletal Infrastructure had to be able to be flat- packed for removal. Everything of the infrastructure had to employ green credentials. A non toxic specification was reached.
SSSI status and an Area of National Scenic Beauty were givens - and so - I designed the new village in response to these designations and the topography and weather.
I drew the infamous accommodation units as a sketch whilst sitting in the Harris Hotel in Tarbet and named them "Pods" following a note in his Island Diary that ...." in scale and relation they must be grouped carefully ... like whales.. a pod of Whales. Mindful of the round corners of the existing black houses that shaped the wind.- They must sit low and hug the contours and present only faces to the sun. "
The epithet of Pods ... well it stuck with the producers instantly. The term existed for space modules at that time but not for terrestrial buildings.
Producer Chris Kelly encouraged the development of that aesthetic idea . With paper and pencil in hand sitting in Harris awaiting a break in the weather for the sail across the sound ...the pods form flowed in response to the flavor of the Robinson Crusoe brief.
The design was fixed,the term Pod was born and they began to have a life of their own even before their prrsence.
Andrew was lucky to already be engaged on work with Carpenters Gordon McDonald and Steve Lawrence then working for Carpenter Oak + Woodland. Gordon and Steve understood the brief instantly and rose to the challenge. There was much to do and as the first squalls of winter were felt. As the cold started to bite we collaborated on a basis of basic needs and primitive shelter. A local contractor was appointed to consolidate remaining ruins of the Islands functioning village of Paible. A village finally abandoned in 1932.
We wanted to be careful to add a gentle and removable layer over what was largely unrecorded and unknown.
On the mainland the Carpenters sourced suitable Curves, cut and jointed the Oak Arches that would Re - frame the lives of 36 people for 1 year.
We prepared to raise the new structures in winter on a remote Island.
The old school house was reinstated first as a bunk house, later to be handed back to the Castaways as their school.
The construction Team were assembled based on their hardiness and willingness to live on the island for weeks at a time until complete.
For the core team this meant living in splendid Isolation awaiting the Castaways arrival. All were pitched against the Sea and Weather in real time and this added to the ability to design and make for such weather.
The Castaways; were of course ultimately supported by a National TV budget that could not really expose people to critical risk and u might say they were ...handed the constituents of a sustainable future infrastructure.
However assistant Producer Paul Overton was outdoors savvy and was keen to promote the essence of survival as much as possible. Production assistants - Becky White Elaine Patterson and Kate Abernethy were also up for authenticity, in truth they were the direct interface with the Castaways themselves and eneterd into a year Long game of cat and mouse .
Directors of Lion Television Shahana Meer and Jeremy Mills were at all times supportive.
A degree of Hebridean flavor and reality was designed into the basic infrastructure and then .... they were left... to create their own systems.
Heat was provided via individual Boat Stoves that i designed based on some Boat Stoves noticed in vans and Boats that had thawed me out after some winter surf sessions - 16 of these were made in Inverness from Mild Steel Hollow section tube.
Native Peat, collected Driftwood and Sea Coal were to be the fuels.
The stoves became the critical interface with survival in Hebridean Winter, whilst being used in their rooms and fuel became a Currency bespoke to Castaway 2000
The budget of the UKs first reality TV show facilitated the use of a helicopter for material drops. The time frame and weather demanded it at a couple of key points in the Construction phase. .. Later and at at the other end of the spectrum of Castaway...ness and at the tail end of the year ....shit was literally shoveled from the compost toilets and buried.
After the year of occupation my practice Blast wwas contracted to clear the Island up .( Weather pun definitely intended ). I took up residence over several weeks on the Island and returned it to its pre - experiment state .
The project left a positive legacy including :- A consolidated and reinvented School house, a Steading as dormitory and a renewable energy system.
Western Isles Council and the Heritage team reported that it was " as if it had never happened."
We then went on to rebuild what was taken off the Island into other needy projects requiring a leg up.
Although only 1.5 miles off' shore from mainland Harris and 20 miles short of Hirta - Taransay's History was similar in many ways to Saint Kilda's, and at moments during the 12 weeks of construction, a few of us had the chance to experience the fragility of an Island Community in the Atlantic ....in the middle of Winter ....with no prospect of transport.
This was no place for shiny new buildings and other than the Scottish timber cut for the Pods and refurbishments, mostly everything was sourced second hand to negate the environmental impact and footprint of the experiment.
The most terrifying aspect of it, was the fear of non completion and the unknown eye of big brother.... and perhaps the eye of Alec in Tarbet Stores .
There were moments when you sensed amidst 118 mph recorded wind speed that the weather had another location in mind .... ....for you and what you were making.
I surrendered control of process only when I was sure that no one would be hurt by what me or my team had placed there. The unexpected presence of the rival product by Channel 4 " big brother." was further encouraging authenticity .. Ultimately we were obliged - " to leave them to it. "
Lion Televisions Chris Kelly and Paul Overton drove and supported the narrative of Castaway.
A confessional booth with camera, was set up on the Island and much was disclosed.
The series spoke honestly of a temporal moment in and around the millenium .... within the frame of produced television.
In the cycle of 18 months, we had made and supplied a temporary village as a framework for inhabitation and then dismantled and recycled it . It acted suitably as a backdrop to the experiment and in many ways had a life of its own. No one was hurt , all were able to stay warm.
In recycling it thoroughly we were able to create Cove Park and 2 Hebridean residences.
We tried to contribute authenticity to the Hebridean locality and ....reality.
We have been asked hundreds of times to make more of these ... It never seemed like the right thing to do.
They were bespoke for the territory. and the brief given.
The Castaway Pod remains copyright of Andrew McAvoy All rights are reserved. ( For the express purpose of making sure that no more Pods are made and that innovation and authenticity prevail in all the delicate and sensitive fringes of Earth + nothing to do with Commerce ! )
The Pods were derived from Taransay for Taransay
They have been given suitable new homes.
See Cove Park or Muck section of the site for reconfigurations.