'The Octagon is the heart of a retreat for spiritual practice and growth in South Cumbria.'

IDK is leading the design of the Octagon, a multi-use 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 will form a new spiritual centre on the foundations of Millom’s old industrial heart. It will exemplify the marriage of traditional and new forms of low-impact construction and achieve the highest level of BREEAM accreditation. Decisions around the Octagon’s form, situation and materiality have been guided by the philosophical practices of the client and its construction will contribute to the area’s ecological and social regeneration, further entangling the site in the rich lifeworlds of its environment.

The Octagon’s exterior is locally quarried sandstone rich in the iron that established Millom as a steel-making town throughout the late nineteenth and twentieth century. As the iron exposed in the cut stone oxidises, a rust-red skin will form, layering the walls with the colour of time and further tying the building to its surroundings.

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. 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, these sides resolve into a double-skinned dome which moves to a single point and culminates in an oculus. This fixed roof light punches through both the hardwearing, rugged shell and the soft timber lining to unify inside and out.

1:1 prototype of Octagon’s exterior from quarried sandstone
Sector: Wellbeing
Location: Millom, Cumbria
Services: Architecture, RIBA Stages 0-6
Date : 2018-(ongoing)
Structures : Structure Workshop
Services : Max Fordham LLP
BREEAM : Sustainably Built
Landscape : Barnes Walker
Civils : M&P Gadsden