Building A Real Life Pirate Island: The Story of Challis Island

Pirate Guest House
“Not every home can have one, but it’s cheering to see one man’s game become a kind of reality” – The Daily Telegraph, commenting on Challis Island
THE BRIEF: We were commissioned by a client that has a deep-rooted love of all things pirate to create a fantasy themed pirate island on their private lake that would seem as though it has been in place since the year 1718. The lake occupied a former gravel pit and was in need of much tlc.

THE CHALLENGE: The resulting themed architecture and interiors must absolutely not look like a theme park and should certainly not be constructed in the same manner. This meant no ‘fake’ plastic rocks or wood, no Plaster of Paris walls and certainly no exposed modern features (electric lights, plug sockets etc). All the work had to be of the same, if not higher, quality of Hollywood set design and prop-making.

We were responsible for all design work, engineering and construction. We also dealt diligently with planning applications on behalf of the client. We also created all pirate fixtures, fittings, interiors, furniture and street furniture.

OUR APPROACH: Here at The Master Wishmakers there absolutely has to be a reason that we make things look the way they look and behave the way they behave. In the case of Challis Island we decided to write our own short story about how this mysterious themed pirate island came to exist in the middle of the English countryside, far from the sea. Everybody loves a story and it was a chance to inject some real fun into the project. It also allowed our client to bond with the design on a much more personal level. You can read this story here.

This story then dictated the design and layout of the whole island.
Challis Island Concept Drawing
DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS: Although England did deploy (pressgang) craftsmen builders to construct the buildings for the newly colonised island, it did not send architects to properly design them. Therefore, all of the new buildings were simply entrusted to the discretion of the craftsmen by the military hierarchy and indeed, England! With only limited, local raw materials available to them, they set about building mainly from memory and their respective experiences back home. Their knowledge of the correct architectural procedures and proportions required by them to build perfectly accurate buildings of their time was limited, which meant that they inadvertently exercised a modest amount of artistic licence to their buildings. Consequently, this resulted in the buildings which were constructed on the island, to being less like the typically, ostentatious and accurate statements of Georgian architecture of their time and more representative of the equally beautiful and charming Georgian period artisan buildings.

For this project we shunned CAD drawings and computer visualisations and opted for a series of hand sketches and water colours to present our concepts to the client. Oh so 1718.