House of Sistema

Jessica Mitchell, Architecture

MSA Stage 3 Prize – Jessica Mitchell – Project Summary – House of Sistema
Residential Music Retreat in Balloch, Scotland

Energy, Landscape, Culture are the three core rationales behind the project. Sistema Scotland is an arts based charity, offering short residential retreat opportunities to participants. The design focuses on the notions of public and private space, the delineation of thresholds within the landscape and built form. Safety and protection are key emotions advocated through the scheme for the students of Sistema, to feel a sense of ownership and agency over spaces. The scheme is divided into collective and individual spaces, providing flexibility and adaptability for users to engage with the spaces.

The courtyard form seeks to reinforce this notion of embracing nature and safety, whilst fostering connection through the placement and articulation of the buildings. Sustainability is a key fundamental throughout the scheme, the design aims to be environmentally conscious, there are several key strategies that are implemented throughout the building in order to maintain environmental awareness.

Orientation, Placement + Form – Figure 1
The building’s orientation and placement seeks to maximize passive design strategies. The North façade of the building’s courtyard is situated to overlook the loch, providing natural landscape views. The east, west and south façade are heavily surrounded and incorporated into the natural landscape. The south façade position utilizes both passive and active design strategies, through solar energy thermal gains as well natural daylighting from glazing within the performance hall façade.

The form is inspired by vernacular architecture of the traditional Scottish Longhouse, with key characteristics including multifunctionality and high thermal mass. The form of scheme utilises portal frames to create a dynamic and open space. Structurally, the performance hall form utilizes a glulam portal frame system, further supported by a secondary structural system of sip panels. In contrast, the residential retreat utilises a timber stud kit supported further by secondary structural system Larsen truss. This truss used to help laterally brace the building and is commonly used in Canadian passive house design. The form benefits passively from high thermal mass throughout the building with high insulated thick walls.

Materiality – Figure 2

The approach towards materiality has been heavily motivated by sustainable principles, all details achieve Passivhaus standard u value. The fabric first approach has been taken throughout the design; timber is the primary material in both buildings, this reflected in choice of interior and exterior materiality, with the building face composed of Scottish larch and locally sourced Scottish stones. The overall feeling of the building tries to emphasize nature and connection to the landscape. There are several key principles embedded within the building fabric, high insulation and high thermal mass, reduced thermal bridging, air tightness throughout, maximisation of solar gains and high indoor air quality.

Design for Disassembly – Figure 3

The building life cycle has been a fundamental core principle within the design, sustainable design considers the whole building construction through to the end of life. The material choice and construction methodology has been set up towards reuse and disassembly at the end of the building lifecycle.

Passive Strategies – Figure 4
The are several key passive strategies embedded throughout the scheme, this is articulated diagrammatically on the supporting document

Active Strategies – Figure 5

There are several key further active environmental design service strategies embedded within the scheme. In terms of water strategy, due to the large roof surface area and high rainfall within Balloch the scheme utilizes rainwater and greywater recycling in order to help reduce the reliance on maine ater. This integrated system will enable greater environmental consciousness within the building. Similarly, the heating and cooling strategy also seeks to utilize closed loop water source heat the natural locality by using the proximity to the loch to generate efficient environmental response the scheme utilizes. Ventilation strategy – the building uses a hybrid system of natural ventilation and mechanical ventilation heat recovery. This enables for reduced cost of energy consumption in the warmer months as well as allowing for greater control depending on usage levels. The goals of the hybrid system is to provide high indoor air quality throughout the building for all users. Renewables- the building utilizes building integrated photovoltaics , to provide energy to power the water source heat pumps as well as further AC appliances. The photovoltaic glass is transparent and able to be charged by natural and artificial lighting, and is able to be fully operational throughout the year.


Ultimately throughout my project I have sought to examine and explore the ways in which sustainable practice can be embedded as a core fundamental to the scheme. My scheme ultimately seeks to respond to context creating a space that seeks to embrace the integrity of form and materiality. The House of Sistema seeks not just to act as a space for connection to each other, but connection to context and locality. This is exemplified further through the use system for assembly and disassembly that seeks to create viable sustainable architecture for the future.

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