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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

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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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View on Approach

The concrete walls allow glimpses into the familial spaces whilst also retaining privacy and protecting from the elements

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View from Behind

Behind the ruin, the island remains untouched by the new inhabitation

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Studio Space Concept

The historical walls of the smaller sister island are crumbling away, providing enough protection to nurture the sculptors work, slowly revealing it as it matures

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1:200 Model

The concrete walls reflect the interplay between ordered humanity and flowing nature

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1:200 Model

Glimpses of the studio appear through the wall as the boat approaches arrival

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1:50 Model

Openings within the concrete wall correspond to sightlines, guiding views out and protecting views in

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1:50 Model

The model is built along one of these sightlines, guiding the viewer just as it would the inhabitant


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Living spaces circle around the central courtyard, private spaces accessed through a communal centre. The kitchen sits within the ruins, both service space, reliable and permanent, and social, the dining table aligned along sightlines


1:50 Model

The section shows the gradient of space between wild nature and curated protection. The external terraces flood each day with the tides, incorporating ingress. The internal terrace offers light protection from the sun, but still open to the air. The internal kitchen offers full protection from the elements, feeling comfortable and safe.

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1:50 Model

The layering of height and texture animates the spaces, embracing variation throughout the days, seasons and years

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1:50 Model

Dappled light passes through the canopy overhead, while bridges playfuly extend through openings, inviting connection through the spaces

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1:20 Model

The structure of the seasonal inhabitation feels somewhere between permanent and temporary


Assembly and Disassembly

Permanent concrete walls support semi-permanent timber framing and platform. Each season, the tent-like frames of the bedrooms are pitched within the timber frames, staying as long as the family feel comfortable here

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1:20 Model

The simple lines of the interior generate a calmness, a place to retreat to, rest and fall asleep to the sound of the waves