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Chris Stewart

Collective Architecture's Chris Stewart discusses his overlapping roles as architect and member of the Scottish Ecological Design Association in promoting green design to a wider audience.

Fortnightly Blog - A Thousand Huts, a social revolution waiting to happen

March 15th, 2016

Described as an ideal, a disease and a temporary container for poetry; for architects they are a bad dose of unrequited love. They can be solitary but when more than one, they become difficult to describe. A Jabba of huts being my favourite collective noun, how then would you describe a thousand huts perhaps ‘a social revolution waiting to happen'.

This seemed to be just the case when during a leap year February, Reforesting Scotland published their new guide to help hut builders make the most of emerging opportunities in Scotland. Launched at the Scottish Parliament the event was attended by members of the planning, building and design communities, who were informed why Scotland’s planning authorities are likely to receive a new generation of planning applications. These have come about as a result of changes in the policy and regulatory framework.

The pressure building towards the publication has been long brewing and instigated by the success of the hutting stronghold of Carbeth in Stirlingshire. There the few of little means, through the Land Reform Act Scotland 2003, managed to raise the princely sum of £1.75 million for the right to buy their huts. This led to the ‘thousand huts’ campaign led by Reforesting Scotland who have spent the last 2 years producing this guide to help planners, architects and hut builders alike achieve good practice in new hut developments.  The guide explains better than I ever can, the Scottish Planning Policy ‘definition of a hut’ and it’s emphasis on preserving the low-impact, environmentally sustainable ethos of traditional hutting. For those whose interest is more legal the guide also covers pre nup issues such as ownership and hut site tenure.

With more than half of Scotland owned by fewer than 500 people, it is easy to see why hutting has more a political dimension than just 4 walls and a roof. At it’s core is the relationship and pride that Scots have with their landscape and how with half our population living in cities, it is important we all get access to our heritage. A very serious but excellent Scottish Executive Central Research Unit paper ‘Huts and Hutters in Scotland’ was published in 2000. At first read, not very helpful to the hutting cause documenting minimal numbers and no evidence of any fresh sites after World War 2. It would appear at the turn of the century huts were heading for extinction and the list of hutting colonies set out in the publication read more like a series of Historical Battles than a census;

Rascarel 1972 - Burned to the ground.

Barry Downs, Carnoustie 2010 - Legal action lost with neighbouring caravan site owner, huts destroyed.

Ardfern, Argyllshire - Small community happily co existing with owner. 2007 Argyll and Bute Council serve enforcement and eviction notices.

Hopeman - Brightly coloured beach huts with 10 year waiting list to join. Not hut enough to make the Scottish Government 2000 census.

Lochwinnoch 2015 - 35 huts reduced to 7 huts, two owned by the Andrews Family from Wellhouse, East Glasgow. Eddie Andrews still organises trips for the Wellhouse Junior Walking Club to his huts.

Carbeth 1920 - Partly built to house survivors of the Clydebank Blitz and incorporating ladies lido. Legal success winning the right to buy, May 2013, the fightback begins.

I am hopeful that architects will flirt seriously with this social revolution as our very own Le Corbusier loved a hut. There are many others such as Aalto’s wonderful Muuratsalo summer getaway but nothing compares with Corb’s petite cabanon on the Cote d’ Azur. It’s vital statistics measure exactly 2.26 meter high (modular man with one arm above his head) with 3.66 meter sides (two modular men lying in a row). Originally built for his wife as a result from a fall out with Eileen Gray, it was paid for by building his Unitie de Camping, inspired by Gypsy caravans, for local restauranteur Mme. Rebutato. Le Corbusier lived here, off and on, for 18 years and it became, in part, the inspiration for the Unite d’Habitation in neighbouring Marseille. Corb shared a love for tranquility with fellow hutters and it allowed him to draw, dream and exist. It was in the Cote D’Azur that the city of Changridah was conceived together with his most wonderful of his masterpieces, the Chapel of Ronchamp. He died in in 1965 in the manner he wished, swimming out to sea in sight of his beloved petite cabanon which together with Eileen Gray’s house, and his Unitie de Camping have been posted for a 2013 UNESCO world heritage listing.

The Carbeth Huts beat the Cote D’Azur by 10 years, achieving the much prized Stirling Council Conservation status in 2003. It is not now possible to self build in your own image, you have to follow the Planner’s Guide to build a rickety shed. Specific window sizes, the correct rough looking materials and how to erect CCTV in woodland are all now carefully specified. This goes against the earlier aspiration for an ecological and low carbon economy of hutting; where much is recycled or plucked from a skip and where energy is taken naturally. Despite my comments Stirling Council’s Carbeth ‘Conservation Area Management Statement’ has pride of place in the Carbeth Hutters Community Company, web site. Whilst perhaps restrictive to their open philosophy the Conservation Status has been a clear acknowledgement of their culture and helped the cause.

The New Hutting Development publication is a decent read and offers excellent guidance. It will be fascinating to see if the recent breakthrough leads to something more lasting and whether local authorities will now consider hutting in their development plans. I would recommend that those who are interested download a copy of the document at and perhaps help rekindle our romance with these structures who really don’t need us.

For the video of William Roberts short poetic film of Carbeth Huts, their owners and their alternative lifestyles visit

For Jonathan Glancey’s video of Le Corbusiers replica cabanon at the RIBA in London visit

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