The Beacon Project
The Pilgrim Stones
A place in nature to re-gather, refresh and re-boot
Sometimes you just need to get away from it all - disconnect from the daily grind and reconnect with the natural world.
In 2022, Merrell launched a nationwide architecture and design competition designed to raise awareness of the many benefits of time spent on activities and experiences in the outdoors on mental health. The competition challenged UK-based architects, engineers, artists, designers, and students of these disciplines to design a small, temporary structure or ‘Beacon’ for the UK’s most remote inhabited island, Foula, with the purpose of providing a sheltered space where visitors can spend restorative time at peace whilst enjoying the wonders of the natural world.
The Pilgrim Stones, by Kevin Kelly of Kevin Kelly Architects, was selected by a panel of industry judges as the winning bid.
This site has been created to provide project updates and a platform for which stakeholders can contact the project team.
The Pilgrim Stones draws inspiration from early visitors to Foula, Britain’s most remote inhabited island. Since Neolithic times people known as Peregini, Latin for “Pilgrim”, have visited Foula – as they navigated by the stars, built in stone and sought solitude.
This modern artefact is a testament to the act of re-orienting the mind and body in the outdoors and sees six inter-connecting wet cast stones create framed views to provide privacy for bird watchers and curated glimpses of the environment.
The design captured the spirit of the competition, enabling visitors to experience and appreciate the natural world in new and interesting ways as well as reflecting nature's benefit on mental health.
The Pilgrim Stones is set to be launched on the island in autumn 2023.
It’s creator, Kevin Kelly, is the founder of Kevin Kelly Architects - a London-based architecture and design studio.
The competition was initiated as a way of raising awareness around the physical and mental benefits of outdoor experiences and activities. Free to enter, it required designers to create a structure that provides a resting place for visitors to take a break and relax. The structure was required to be made from natural or fully recyclable, eco-friendly building materials.
The Pilgrim Stones was selected by four industry judges and fended off competition from over 100 other entrants.
Peter Sharpe, Curator and Commissioner of Contemporary Art & Architecture at the highly regarded Kielder Art & Architecture programme for more than 20 years, working closely with national and international artists and architects.
Piers Gough CBE. Piers is an acclaimed postmodern architect, writer and leader in the profession. His principal buildings include China Wharf and The Circle in Bermondsey, the CDT Building at Bryanston School and Janet Street-Porter House in Clerkenwell (four of the six CZWG buildings given listed heritage status in 2018).
Merlin Fulcher is competitions editor for Architects’ Journal and Architectural Review, host of the weekly Londown podcast, and head of tours at the architectural charity Open City.
Geoff Southern, Associate Director, IBI Group UK. Geoff is an architect and landscape architect, responsible for the design of healthcare and residential-led mixed-use projects.
The project site feels like the edge of the world, sitting on the northern tip of the island, overlooking Gaada Stack. An area of true natural beauty, the site is a protected wildlife area, and for good reason, it is home to thousands of birds including Puffins, Guillemots and Fulmars to name just a few.
As such, Foula is designated a Special Protection Area by Nature Scot which means there are restrictions on any construction and development during bird breeding season which run from March through to September. Early stakeholder engagement identified the requirement to bring on board specialist environmental consultants to carry out the necessary assessments of the island, the site and the construction corridor/routes.
Some key challenges with The Pilgrim Stones are not just the construction of the stones themselves, but the logistics of getting them to such a remote location.
Following a research and development phase, by employing pre-Roman construction methodologies, several prototypes of The Pilgrim Stones were built, largely using what is already available on Foula. Not only does this observe sustainable construction practices, but it leans into the concepts and narrative of the overall design.
Using layered earth and soil to create the formwork for the stones, a layer of willow lines each cast acting as a releasing agent. A night-time ceremony will take place where the stones are organised in a circle and set on fire to remove the willow embedded within the surface of each stone. The result is a set of scorched stones with an intricate surface pattern, that are then hoisted into place - creating The Pilgrim Stones.
MIND is a charity that provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. MIND campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem. But hundreds of thousands of people are still struggling.
MIND believes no one should have to face a mental health problem alone. MIND listens, gives support and advice, and fights your corner.Website here
Founded in 1981 in Vermont, United States, Merrell is now the world’s No. 1 rugged outdoor footwear brand with products distributed in over 190 countries. Merrell products are built on a heritage of quality and performance. Merrell’s stylish product and innovative technologies deliver ready to wear comfort and performance.
Merrell is dedicated to encouraging people to push past the barriers that might ordinarily prevent them from getting outside, and take that first step out to enjoy the many restorative benefits of time in the great outdoors.Website here