Part 2 – Ryan Fish

We know more about the moon than we do our own oceans

Climate change, overfishing and trawling techniques have had a devastating impact on benthic communities and fishing stocks in the North East Atlantic. Liquid Assets looks at reimagining the UK oil and gas rig decommissioning process to help remedy the marine environment. The project stemmed from research of a strange phenomenon in the North Sea where cold-water coral reefs have attached to oil and gas rigs. The project briefly introduces how substantial rig structures can be utilised as a marine/ fishing base, though the main focus looks at how funds from the decommissioning process can be reallocated to promote marine conservation in an urban area.

Ryan Fish- Liquid Assets- 15- The Tourist

The Research

The project stemmed from a fascination of coral reefs and the marine ecology surrounding them. When you think of coral reefs there is a tendency to associate them with the warm, shallow reefs fuelled by photosynthesis such as the Great Barrier Reef. There are, however, comprehensive benthic communities located in the North East Atlantic and are typically found around cold-water coral mounds. The research led me down a series of paths, of which, the most intriguing was the relationship between cold-water coral ecologies, the potential increase of fishing stocks and a ‘rigs to reefs’ scheme in Mexico where abandoned rigs were left for reefs to take hold. A culmination of primary and desktop research helped stimulate a project brief through mapping the controversies relating to the marine environment.

The Project Programme

The decommissioning of oil and gas in the North Sea is worth approximately £30 billion. This project seeks to utilise some of the existing platforms, opposed to breaking them down, saving money. The reused rigs (refurbished at a lower cost) go on to host industrial scale fish farms, marine research laboratories and a coastguard facility. Another part of the scheme aims to bring a decommissioning plant to the industrial part of the island to help create jobs. The finance redistributed from the decommissioning process is used to compensate the marine environment by revitalising economies in former strong fishing towns like Stornoway. This scheme primarily focusses on a marine conservation centre, The Breakwater Institute, located in an urban area that aims to educate and encourage sustainable fishing methods as well as integration into the local economy.

Stornoway / Actors and Agents

Once I had targeted Stornoway as an ideal location for a project, I searched for more specific primary research in the Isle of Lewis and Harris. Marine-based actors and agents from the Marine Conservation Society, Outer Hebrides Fisheries Trust and the local University helped direct the design brief and inform a large part of the schedule of accommodation, such as an idea from the Outer Hebrides Fisheries Trust to expand aquaculture with native species of fish and promote the introduction of a wrasse fish to help prevent the farmed fish becoming diseased.

The Masterplan for Stornoway

The scheme operates in three main sectors. The reimagined oil rigs are located at sea whilst Stornoway is broken down in to two main areas: the decommissioning area that will eventually become an oil and gas museum and the Breakwater Institute. With a complex programme looking to the oil and gas sector to compensate the marine environment, I used a series of loose metal fittings to stimulate a masterplan for Stornoway. The loose fittings relate directly to the oil and gas rigs left to decommission. As part of the masterplan, the Town Centre, Decommissioning Plant and Breakwater Institute link together in a loop. The location for the Breakwater Institute is a small piece of land stretching in to the sea called Goat Island.

The Breakwater Institute on Goat Island

Careful consideration was taken for a proposal on Goat Island. Given its delicate relationship to the sea the concept was to create a piece of architecture that was sculpted in to the land, utilising the change in levels to create a multi-use amphitheatre space for the fish market and hosting of local theatrical productions. The remainder of the development hosts an aquarium, fish farms, laboratories, coastguard facilities and a diving-pool; these building elements extract entities of the local vernacular such as the pitched roof landscape and the use of boat building techniques to inform construction methods. The pitched roof buildings are strategically positioned to reflect the town centre on the opposite side of the water. The materiality of the building takes shape in the form of heavy concrete at lower level in an attempt to combat storm impact and water ingress, a lightweight weather protected timber structure is located at higher level. I used massing models to develop a hierarchy of spaces and models at 1:50 to investigate lightweight and heavyweight frames and used 1:5 models to interrogate concrete and timber details further. The final pages of this project demonstrate how the scheme refers back to the actors and agents and shows how the tourist, eileanach (islander) and marine biologist will use the Breakwater Institute.

Ryan Fish


The main aim of the project was to try and promote marine ecology. I frequently found that marine research was under-financed; it is a subject that is ranked extremely low on the political agenda. The use of the oil rigs provided me with a perfect link to legitimately compensate the marine environment ensuring the scheme works at an international scale. Working through to a more human scale, the information that came from the primary research was invaluable particularly when working through a schedule of accommodation. The local vernacular helped complete the detail worked through to a 1:5 scale helping me complete what I feel was a well-rounded thesis project.



Bond Bryan Architects

West Yorkshire Society of Architects

Part of Lighting Exchanges from Deltalight

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