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Architecture (MA)

Elza Liang

Elza is an architectural designer based in London and China. She completed a BSc in Architecture at the University of Bath, in 2020. She was fortunate to work in practices in Frome, London, and Shanghai and has contributed to different range of projects. Her current interest lies in rethinking the life cycle of building, as well as how it serves as a tool to responds climate challenges. After finishing her studies, she intends to work in the field of Architecture and expand on her understanding of what it means to be a part of the profession.

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Stone Rush

The quarry extraction in Portland left an abundance of stone lying everywhere on the island, unclaimed due to their colours, which can be considered as an opportunity, a resource, as construction material to reconstruct existing structure and transform it for future. use. There is no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place. This is a journey to rediscover and reclaim waste stone and how to make use of them in the building

For centuries, this island has endured exploitation, its valuable products extracted and exported elsewhere. However, it is time to bring attention back to this very place. Through maintenance and care strategies, Stone Rush means to cleanse this island, breathing new life into the abandoned concrete structure, and transforming it into a stone institute that celebrates craftsmanship, well-being, and sustainability.

But this project is not just about restoration; it is a call to the construction industry to recognize and embrace the true value of stone. Therefore, through advocating innovation and collaboration among architects, engineers, students, and local stonemasons to come together, explore and experiment with Portland stone found in this island. Together, we will discover more efficient and effective ways to push the boundaries of what is possible.

island survey
The extraction of stone has made substantial scars on the landscape. In Victorian times, in order to get to the valuable stone for building materials, quarrymen first had to remove the clay, soil, and crumbling rock by hand or explosives. The waste was either stacked up like hills or getting dumped over the cliffs. The modification of land is difficult to restore or re-use. They are now either backfilled by stone waste or became nature reserves.
The stone industry is still on going, more quarries are reserved for extraction. But most stones are used as decorative in current industry. A lot of them are not chosen and left to rot due to their colour. Today, all the railways built exclusively used for Portland stone are gone instead they become public footpath for locals and visitors, The trails lead to Castletown, the port, where they used to ship stones, and it is where my site sits, the former naval apartment blocks.
building survey
This building was built in the late 1980s as state-of-the-art accommodation for the Royal Navy, it was occupied for less than a decade before the closure of the nave base in 1998. The site was sold for redevelopment into luxury seaside apartments. Both blocks were stripped back to their concrete shells in 2004, and the first block finished refurbishment in 2008. However, the conversion of the second block stopped due to financial issues. The structure is now heavily vandalized and decaying in the landscape.
existing plan
Existing Ground Floor Plan


Photography, Digital Drawings

The transformation proposal can be split in 3 parts.

First, after one year, we will carry unclaimed stones from the island, and by-products from the local masonry company to the site. These neglected stones will be carefully cataloged, and organised, Use the existing as an open shelf to store and display, waiting to be discovered for the new use.

In phase two, after 5 years, the intervention will be ongoing and unfinished, we are still strengthening and protecting the existing concrete structure. To enable transformation, we will be exploring how to stack stone in different sizes and shapes to enclose the building, for instance, if they are big enough, they can be a column or a beam, smaller one will be stone blocks, drywalls, and gabion. And at the same time, this open up different possibilities of program, such as climbing or stone workshop that only need the minimum requirement of sheltering, which will naturally happen inside or outside the building.

In the last phase, we fast forward 25 years in the future, The case is now complete, the interior is safe for the public to use, and the depot will serve as a communal gathering place for the people of Portland - a venue for community activities, exhibitions, and adventure. The building is now full of stone creations, celebrating the material on various form. Hopefully, ‘Stone Rush’will attract more people to migrate to Portland. The Upper floors, once quiet with stones, will be occupied as a residential area.


Digital Drawings
Studies of stone construction typology
Since the intervention will be ongoing and unfinished, involving lots of experiments, so there will be permanent external lifts installed and sliding stones into different floors. New staircases are added outside to enable easy movement for people, and also provide viewpoints to appreciate the new facade, at the same time, minimizing the need for demolition of current slabs.
At basement and ground floor, new stone walls and buttresses are added to strengthen the existing to accommodate the new program, stone workshops and material lab. These walls served as experimental canvases, where we stack waste stones of various sizes and colors, allowing for a creative aesthetic. Moving upwards, the Upper floors are offices, computer lab, and meeting rooms for architects, engineers, and stone mason to collaborate, and share ideas.
The Façade will use the self-supporting wall system, blocks of stones run up the faces and are tied back to the existing slabs, to protect concrete from moisture. The use of stone, this durable, uncoated material that requires little maintenance helps minimize the embodied energy involved in maintaining the building throughout its life.
gf plan
The zoning of the programme are split into 3 blocks, driven by activities, groups of users and level of privacy. The middle block is mainly workshops. The west wing is the building of ‘adventures’, and the east is the temporary accommodation for stone apprentices.
climbing gym
The west wing is the building of ‘adventure’, this space is designed as an open shelf to be playful, with minimal intervention for open-air exhibition, recreation activities, and an informal retreat for both locals and visitors. Here, they can wander, discover, climb and play with stones
typical floor plan
On the upper floors where the existing was made up of tight cells, through a careful subtraction of structure, a labyrinth of new stone pillars and walls are crafted from our workshop. This change helps to inspire imagination, a place where the ambiguity of stone takes on various forms. People can walk closely inside the labyrinth, and embrace the we ight and the tactile qualities of how each stones hold together.

The east wing is to provide temporary housing for stone apprentices, fostering a sense of community and encouraging young individuals to establish their careers in Portland. There will be a fixed water supply and a shared kitchen available for each floor, but allow freedom for the inhabitant to choose where they want to stay and to build their own unique spaces.

This is a view inside a common area, where spaces are enclosed by sliding doors and stacked stone walls. The corridor is unconditioned to allow for a refreshing and authentic experience. People can sit under the shaded area and socialize, play, and reflect in front of the ocean view.


Digital Drawings
continuum of stone
details of continuum stone

The surrounding environment is connected by the presence of stone, which acts as a force that synchronize the elements of architecture, landscape, and people. The footpath, once a narrow and steep, inclined path will evolve into a stone carpet that seamlessly extends from the quarried landscape. The  paving makes the path wider and  smooth the traffic flow between cyclists, pedestrians, and their dogs. Benches and stone creations made by the workshop will be placed here, giving back to the community some social infrastructure. Every time a turn occurs, the pattern change, hinting at passers how far they have walked, encouraging them to pause and perhaps even to find a moment of relaxation.