A multi-use wellness building at the heart of a retreat dedicated to spiritual practice and growth, on the site of a former ironworks in South Cumbria.

Located at the edge of the Lake District National Park, on a peninsula jutting out into the Duddon Estuary, the Octagon forms a new spiritual centre on the foundations of Millom’s old industrial heart. It exemplifies the marriage of traditional and new forms of low-impact construction.

Working on the principle of complementary opposites, the building’s exterior footprint forms a female octagon and the interior, a male. As the building rises up from the ground, the sides resolve into a double-skinned dome which moves to a single point before culminating in an oculus. A fixed rooflight punches through both the hardwearing, rugged shell and the soft timber lining to unify inside and out.

Externally, a massive loadbearing stone base supports a lightweight zinc clad roof that reflects and reaches to the sky. Local stone was selected for the rich seam of iron that runs through it, which oxidises over time into layers of rust. Internally, the dome shell is fabricated like an upside-down skate bowl, using a simple process to deliver a complex form.

With eight windows affording multiple perspectives across the landscape and a sprung wooden floor, the Octagon invites and provides space for reflection on the temporal and rhythmic entanglements of human and non-human worlds.

New build / Well-being
Collaborators: Structure Workshop, Max Fordham LLP, Sustainably Built, Barnes Walker, M&P Gadsden