When Bùth MhicNeacail was first built in the 1960’s the
material of the moment was cement. A series of architects
used the booming trade in concrete and other cutting edge
technologies of the time to create buildings of the most
imaginary shapes and forms. The Bùth, designed and built by
Nicolson himself, was one such example. A compact but
tardis-like building on a chassis base.
As well as a purveyor of fancy goods, Nicolson was a keen
geologist, inventor and amateur engineer, putting to use the
materials readily available on the Island. He campaigned
tirelessly for the improvement of the roads across the
island, particularly the Pentland road which links Stornoway
to Carloway. It is a little known fact that he invented his
own version of road surfacing, a combination of sand, boiled
seaweed and shells which he produced in small batches on his
croft. The material was prone to pot holing and was soon
overtaken by the introduction of more hard wearing Asphalt
mixes and Tarmacadam in the late 80’s.
Nevertheless, Nicolson continued with his vision for a self
sufficient and connected Isle of lewis, and the kiosk would
embody that vision, for a time.
The Kiosk fell into disrepair and was taken down in the
1990’s. Some were glad to see the broken cladding in the
skip, others mourned the structure, with its unusual
textures and Heath Robinson combinations of local materials.
The demolition paved the way for a contemporary vision of
Stornoway’s cultural and artistic heritage: the building you
are standing in now.
These cast tiles are inspired by Nicolson’s enthusiasm for
the otherwise overlooked surfaces and textures that continue
to play a key part in the infrastructure and character of
Stornoway and the wider Hebridean landscape.