Tour a space-age prefab holiday home located in a peaceful Argyll setting

Prefab is practical, but this creation on the Morvern peninsula is anything but predictable

Renowned as purveyors of the unusual, Roderick James Architects’ AirShip project easily cements that reputation.

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Through his practice, Roderick James has been involved with more than 1,000 houses, cabins, tree-houses and houseboats during the past 30 years and has a wealth of experience in designing for small spaces and understanding where and how buildings deteriorate.

“With this knowledge,” Roderick explains, “my wife Amanda [Markham] and I wanted to develop a prefabricated structure which would have no maintenance at all, but which also incorporated the fun and excitement that all our buildings tend to have.

Picture: Cool Stays

“However, one of the problems with prefabricated buildings is that although they can be dismantled, the damage to the structure often makes it uneconomic.

"Timber degrades, and although it has many advantages – on which we have built our reputation – The AirShip is designed to eliminate many of its drawbacks.”

Roderick adds: “This was done as a speculative project and we thought that it would probably be available for letting, but we didn’t know exactly how it would be used.

"We’ve done a lot of small buildings on uninhabited islands in Scotland and in secret woodland all over the UK, so we have a track record for doing secret and fun buildings.”

Picture: Cool Stays

Roderick and Amanda already had a plot in mind for The AirShip as the right location was obviously crucial.

“We had four acres of land at Drimnin on which there was an old chapel which had been converted into a house, so it’s in the grounds of that,” says Roderick.

“It almost landed there itself it was such an obvious spot for it. It’s completely secluded yet has the most extraordinary views right out to the Atlantic.

"Our first piece of advice to clients is always, ‘Don’t put the building in the beautiful bit, put it where you can look at the beautiful bit,’ and that’s exactly what we’ve done here.”

This secluded spot was also the perfect place in which to test how easy it was to transport and build the components of The AirShip.

Picture: Cool Stays

“Minimal maintenance is a key element of The AirShip. Buildings that people tend to put up in this sort of site are usually wood, and while wood is great, and a lovely material, it does need maintenance.”

To combat this problem, The AirShip uses high quality, heavy duty aluminium and stainless steel components which will not rust, rot or be affected by weather.

All the components of the robust frame can be carried by two people, so The AirShip can be constructed anywhere, regardless of road access.

The standard insulated cladding panels are made of aluminium and the floor panels are heavy duty aluminium chequer plate.

Floor panels can also be lifted to provide a large insulated storage area underneath, providing space for storing rainwater channelled from the roof.

Picture: Cool Stays

The basic internal finish is aluminium which is usually clad with timber boarding which creates a cosier effect and makes the installation of LED lighting less obtrusive.

“The idea was to create something relatively lightweight. The AirShip weighs about 3.5 tonnes and it can sit on railway sleepers or oak beams on the ground so it doesn’t need expensive foundations.

"It’s not that quick to move and it takes approximately a week to put it up.

"Then again, there are about 3,000 components in it. We can and usually do supply our managing erector, Patrick Hobbs, to do the build. He tours the country for us.”

Picture: Cool Stays

Whilst the engineering aspect is impressive, the aesthetics of The AirShip are equally important and have been just as carefully considered, as Roderick explains.

“When we designed The AirShip one of the key things was the incorporation of the spectacular glazed area at either end.

"It’s rather like a dragonfly’s eye and when you read our guest reviews, it’s clearly captured their imaginations.

“We also wanted to create a space that had a slightly mysterious feel to it and I think the portholes make it feel as though it has a sense of adventure built in.

Picture: Cool Stays

"There are three portholes in the sleeping area which can be enclosed with a curtain. It provides privacy, but you can still lie in bed and look out at the view and it’s a pretty spectacular one.

"You can see right out to Ben More.”

Picture: Cool Stays

Comfort was also key, with much of the furniture being commissioned for the space, says Roderick.

“We wanted a very comfortable bed, a proper dining space – the galley has a fold-out table – and lots of quirky accessories.

"The aluminium and leather chairs were made in India and the coffee table is an old dough bowl which came from Catherine Waters Antiques which we fitted with a glass top.

Picture: Cool Stays

"The chairs are by Timothy Oulton from John Lewis. We simply chose anything we thought fitted in with The AirShip concept.

“It is an unusual place to stay and I like that Roderick James Architects are known for that and as a practice we’re keen on doing quirky buildings in special places.

"For me The AirShip is a reaction to the black boxes that keep appearing on the landscape, I don’t think they fit in at all.

Picture: Cool Stays

"Initially, some people likened The AirShip to a caravan, but this is twice the width, highly insulated and it has a lot of versatility and possibilities.

"Because it goes out at the sides you can’t really talk about the floor area because it feels far bigger than it is.”

But it’s the verdict of those who actually stay in the AirShip that counts. “Our guests have said it’s the best place they’ve ever stayed in and that’s good enough for me,” says Roderick. “It’s far exceeded our expectations.”

Picture: Cool Stays

The AirShip is available to let through CoolStays and Airbnb.

Words: Nichola Hunter