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Second skin commended: Dead in the Water

Michèle Woodger

A Shetland coastal structure has been resurrected as a dwelling by Colin Sim of Malcolmson Architects

The dramatic setting of Copelands Lodberry today.
The dramatic setting of Copelands Lodberry today.

Dead in the Water by Colin Sim, Malcolmson Architects

With its ever-so-slightly sinister title and brooding photography of crashing waves, Colin Sim’s resurrection of Copelands Lodberry from a watery grave captivated the judges with its technical ambition. A lodberry is an 18th/19th-century structure unique to Shetland, combining courtyard, store and dwelling-house which projects, pier-like, into the sea. The unoccupied, Category B-listed (Scotland) premises is falling into disrepair, but Sim’s proposal restores it into a dwelling, keeping the external walls for flood defence and replacing the rear elevation, part of the roof and the entire interior with a lightweight OSB insertion capable of floating. New elevations would be clad in metal to contrast with existing stonework.


‘I enjoyed its sense of the epic’ Jan-Carlos Kucharek

  • Axonometric: the rear elevation is removed and a new OSB structure created within.
    Axonometric: the rear elevation is removed and a new OSB structure created within.
  • Section illustrating OSB insertions.
    Section illustrating OSB insertions.
  • Interior visualisation.
    Interior visualisation.

The judges did have some reservations about whether OSB was suited for use in marine conditions. ‘I’m dubious about the fact that the structure will be floating,’ commented Loftus, voicing concerns about the longevity of the material in such a watery environment. Nevertheless, Sim’s ambitious vision drew favourable reviews. ‘I enjoyed its sense of the epic in a small building,’ said Kucharek. 

The concept – a lightweight box that can float in a shell, tucking a new-build into existing fabric – retains the lodberry’s atmospheric appearance. ‘I like the juxtaposition of the new OSB structure with the old building in a rugged landscape,’ said Connacher. Sian agreed, saying: ‘It’s ambitious and challenging to slot a new structure into an existing building of beauty.’