Alkisti Anastasia Tselenti Mikelatou
The Orkney Islands Archipelago, off the north-eastern coast of Scotland, is a particular destination with a unique
history that goes back to 5000 BC. It carries a mysterious sense of vacancy and isolation. The scattered ruination dominates its landscape: Neolithic structures, stone monuments and abandoned houses are still present on its large,
empty lands to this day.
Through a series of analytical studies on the Orkney archipelago, I have come to challenge the conventional understanding of archives. Through my proposal I wish to bring about the idea that if one wishes to envision an archive for such a special place like Orkney, the only honest representation would be the archipelago itself. The project therefore proposes an organisation that aims to bridge the fragmented temporal and spatial gaps of Orkney Islands as well as to shed light on its marginalised past. It ultimately hopes to restore its historical continuities by bringing together all its past layers under the same landscape, the palimpsest landscape.
The proposal works as a mediator, an essential intermediate state. It provides a holistic informative experience of Orkney’s history through a journey of underground open courtyards and smaller intimate spaces. The proposal was designed to be experienced through a complex system of overground, ground and underground pathways. The
interconnection of the historical layers reflects the complexity of the design which builds on the understanding that history is never linear.
On the journey through the proposal, the visitors are guided by specialist groups who act as
narrators. The visitors are then able to explore the historic monuments revealed on the land through organised bus and walk tours around the archipelago.
The research body of the project focuses on two significant historical layers of Orkney. The first is the prehistoric layer privileged in Orkney’s mainstream narrative, consisting of the Chambered Cairns of Orkney. The Neolithic Cairns are part of the archaeological heritage of the islands and are the main attraction for visitors. Through a primary methodological study on the Chambered Cairns of the archipelago, the project focused on an in-depth analysis of their structural patterns, their calculated orientation and their connections to the landscape.
The second, more
marginalised layer of the project refers to the abandoned houses of the archipelago; which resulted by the Highland Clearances phenomenon. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the landlords cleared the land and houses of the
Scottish farming communities primarily to allow for the introduction of sheep pastoralism. The presence of those
houses today, which are left abandoned on the land, is the only remaining indication of this tragic phenomenon.
The chosen site of the project is the abandoned farming house of Mircady, Deerness -a remote but highly visible location in Orkney Islands-. The abandoned house plays a dominant role in the design of the proposal due to its emotional and physical presence. The Neolithic inspiration of the design in combination with the presence and location of the
abandoned house, aims to bridge the fragmented historical layers of Orkney, not only on a symbolic but also, on a material level. A level that ultimately adds to the idea that the palimpsest landscape of Orkney is itself the archive of