Delta Shelter

the sculpted isle

Madonna del Monte is an island on the move. Its silty geology is relocated by the tides, a different shape each year. Its inhabitation by humanity now crumbling ruins, shifting ever closer to the sea.
     The tides come and go, hiding and revealing, adding and subtracting, shrinking and expanding the island. The transience of inhabitation bears a mark of permanence, the ruins guiding the silts until absorbed as part of the landscape.


A sculptor falls in love with the place; with the sound of the sea, the strength of the ruin, the peaceful sister island. Sheltered in the small, dislocated 'L' of the ruin, the sculptor starts to inhabit, to sculpt out a place for themselves. A studio, a retreat nestles into the walls of the smaller island.
     Each summer the sculptor returns, bringing a partner, growing the landscape, sculpting a place. Terraces cut into the land at the base of the full ruin, bringing the life of the sister island across the water. A shared place and a personal space, connected only by sight or by boat.
     The sculptor protects themself, learning the islands’ movements, reflecting and deflecting them. Flowing concrete walls create harbours, securing their landscape.

A family flourishes, sheltered between the touch of the ruin and the touch of the sea. Strong walls cocoon them, anchoring place within and sculpting space without.
     Each summer they return to inhabit this landscape, pitching tent-like homes within the concrete shell.
     Each year is different. The sand moves around the feet of the walls, the studio’s wall crumbles and falls away, the sculpture exposed and celebrated.
     The tides rise and fall, flooding the terrace, dancing against the floor and walls, then draining in pools, seats and flows. The house leaves with the people, but the promise of inhabitance remains - platforms and walls, sculpted into the landscape.

Delta Shelter was a short optional design module of MSc2 in Delft, designed as a quickfire way to develop a concept through iterative design using purely hand-drawn sketching and hand modelling.

     This project explores the constant interplay between the shaping of space due to the natural elements, against the shaping that plays out through human inhabitation and construction.

MSc2 Global Dwelling Studio, TU Delft

July 2018


nature vs human

designing by hand

iterative design

transient design

I was sand, I was snow, written on, rewritten, smoothed over.

– Margaret Atwood

The new intervention derives its form and materiality from its context, both angular in reflection of the ordered construction of the ruin, yet soft to work with the sweeping construction of the tides.

     It shelters at the base of the ruin, curating and manipulating a corner of the island to fit the human form. Social spaces are centred around the experience of this landscape, absorbing and collecting the tides in pools that slosh and swirl, casting dancing lights onto the walls of the house.
    The ruin acts as a gradient between the wild landscape of the rest of the island and the sculpted landscape of inhabitation.

The family face the ocean, hidden from view of the neighbouring islands at the foot of the ruin. Strong concrete walls enclose the space, all sightlines controlled and converging in the central focus of the patio. Openings in the wall connect internal spaces with external terraces, directing views to maintain hierarchies of privacy and peace.
     Most private of all is the studio, hidden between walls of old and new, protected until ready to be seen. As the studio and artist mature, the wall of the ruin continues to be undermined by the sea, finally revealing their work only once confident and prepared.

The residence is flexible, itself changing with the tides, seasons and years. The strong permanence of the concrete walls become part of the geology, a structure within the landscape to bear upon. Semi-permanent timber frames, mountable and demountable by a group of hands sit within them, necessary only where supporting family life.
     Upon this framework lightweight canvas covered screens are erected each season from their winter store within the sheltered kitchen. The spaces grow with the inhabitants, their design adapting to meet changing needs.

Natural shaping and curated place

Privacy and connection

Temporal variation

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