Bona Visitor Centre, Loch Ness

An inland lighthouse marks the headland between the end of Loch Ness and the entrance to the Caledonian Canal. Built by Thomas Telford in 1815, the building is listed by Historic Scotland and the canal is an ancient monument. Loch Ness itself is considered to be an iconic landscape which is part of the image of Scotland. The practice was asked to redevelop the site as a visitor centre and harbour for a Scottish travel company that offers boat tours on the Loch between Inverness and Urquhart Castle.

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We designed a floating pontoon structure to be towed up the canal and moored alongside the existing sunken jetty. The fragile boat-like qualities of the pontoon allows the lighthouse to retain its historic presence in the landscape, whilst providing a suitable quayside for the tour boats that is unaffected by the two metre seasonal tide fluctuations. The roof of the pontoon is angled to capture the sun and provide shelter for visitors embarking on the boat tours.

Our proposal restored the existing lighthouse, but with its original function as an eye on the landscape inverted, to act instead as camera obscura, drawing the landscape inside. A new roof of northlights encloses the existing rear courtyard to provide a sheltered exhibition and retail space.