Diploma 2017: "Basalt & Vines - Preservation through cooperative production" by James Barber

tutors: Joakim Skajaa (APP), Trudi Jaeger (DAV), Harald Røstvik (sustainability), Sigurdur Gunnarson (TTA) 


This diploma project is located on Pico Island, one of the nine volcanic island that make up the Portuguese Azores. The project aims to re-establish the historic coastal village as a heart of production with a cooperative winery and school.

Pico’s settlers developed a unique method to transform the baron and volcanic landscape into productive land. They constructed a network of contiguous, dry-stone walled enclosures called ‘Currais’ that protect grape vines from the harsh Atlantic winds. This unique vineyard landscape has since come to define the island and its culture, however it currently faces a number of challenges from depopulation and the growth of the tourism industry.

Today, families on the island sell their grapes to a large factory in the main town of Madalena, and individual wine production is limited. This has reduced the work to purely growing, where there once was a diverse and rich culture of producing wine on an individual basis. The intention of the project is to create a economically viable solution that allows local growers to produce their own product using shared, modern equipment, whilst also strengthening the exchange of generational knowledge through a school program. The hope is that, by giving the younger generation access to a and teaching, it might encourage entrepreneurship, helping to counter the rural > urban migration and loss of intangible heritage. The project proposes that production is returned to the historic coastal villages that are currently in danger of becoming purely tourist lodgings.

The proposed architecture is considered subservient to the identity of the place, and it appropriates many of the characteristics of the island vernacular. However, there is an attempt to strike a balance between continuity and change with regards to materiality and composition. The unique and dramatic volcanic landscape provides inspiration to the architectural response.


'Classroom perspective'


'Production hall perspective'




'Perspective section through sorting area'