The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ghost: The Architecture

Foundation at Shobac that predates Champlain's trip to the new world in 1604
Typical Shed Architecture near Shobac

Fishing village at Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia

MacKay-Lyons' Studio at Shobac, part of Ghost 8, at Sunset

The Tower, called Simeon, built in 2004 during Ghost 6

View From Above of Shobac and the Atlantic Ocean; Note the 4 cottages or cabins

Close up of the Cottages Built during Ghost 7 in 2005

The Four Cottages. We stayed in the second from the left cabin

The Barn Built during Ghost 9. The Viewing Structure can be seen in the Distance

Structure Near the Messenger House II Built during Ghost 10

Viewing Structure Also Built During Ghost 10

Inside of the Viewing Structure

Path, built of Local Stone, to the Boat House

Shobac and The LaHave Estuary Beyond From the Viewing Structure

The first drawing of the New World that cartographer Sameul de Champlain drew in 1604 included a few European houses at the mouth of the LaHave River. One of the houses was on the site overlooking the LaHave Estuary where the Ghost workshops took place from 1994 to 2010. The foundation of that house remains to this day at Shobac. It was probably originally the home of a fisherman from Brittany or Normandy who settled there in the sixteenth century.

During the 17th and 18th centuries the French settlers lived peacefully with the aboriginal Mi'kmaq in villages where they traded, fished, forested and trapped for a living. The Acadian Expulsion in the 18th century was followed by the resettlement of the village by the German and Swiss immigrants. They used the existing foundations to build their homes in the 1750's. Their descendants remained there on the site which is now Shobac until the 1940's when they were abandoned. Every settlement at Shobac is built on the previous site reusing the stones and foundations.

The architect Brian MacKay-Lyons used the ancient foundation as a starting point for his series of Ghost hands-on design-build projects. The settlers of the region were fisherman and farmers and the same craftsman used the naturally available wood to build both the boats and the buildings. "A grasp of the of the vernacular characteristics of the native building culture leads to an understanding of current building styles. Why do the buildings of the Ghost workshop blend so well with the existing landscape? It is because Brian MacKay-Lyons has precisely observed the vocabulary of the surrounding buildings, such as lighthouses, barns, farmhouses and shipyards, as well as the shapes and construction of boats. His thorough analysis of these typologies is taken into account when designing in his practice, always skillfully blending the building into the environment. The result is an architecture that is bound to the landscape in the best sense of the vernacular." (Karl Habermann, Ghost, Building an Architectural Vision, 2008.)


  1. Thanks for telling us about this place.

  2. Michael, I find it awe-inspiring that a landscape of such natural beauty with an echoing cultural background should be the stage for such innovative built exploration. The 'Ghosts' are stunning, individually, and in their placement/siting. It's rare to see care taken to this extent.

  3. Hi Michael, I love those cottages. Why does simplicity just work so damn well?

    Did the German settlers leave in the '40's because of internment do you think? (Surely not if they'd been there for 200 years).

    I was mesmerised by Nova Scotia when flying London to New York; my eyes glued to the tiny Virgin Atlantic window as we flew over infinite lakes. NS will always mean to me infinite lakes! One of just so very many places that I wish to visit. Enjoy ...


  4. James, visiting Shobac has gotten me thinking about how gardens are made and how they can reflect the "sense of place".

    I agree, Faisal. I was very impressed by their thoughtfulness. There was also a bit of spontaneity in the process. Making some of the structures temporary must have made it easier to experiment.

    Dave, simplicity does work, doesn't it? The German settlers left the Shobac site, but not the area, for economic reasons. I did the same thing on my flights. If you get the chance to visit, I think you will love NS.

  5. I hope the interior of the cottages were as intriguing as the exterior. Interesting post.

  6. Les,
    They were consistent with the design of the cottages. Simple and modern. You can see for yourself at:



Related Posts with Thumbnails