Bùth MhicNeacail - Logo

A863 Tarmac

Boiler room roughcast

Corrugated roofing



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.

For better or for worse.

made by Philippa C Thomas

Philippa predominantly works in printmaking, and has a background in illustration and theatre design. She is one of the curators of Bùth MhicNeacail.

Her current practice is based on observational drawing in the landscape and a process of material exploration and play in the studio.