ARCHITECTURAL experts at Edinburgh University have agreed to build a miniature Iron Age broch to help the Caithness Broch Project, backed by The National as media partner, realise its dream of building a full-size world heritage roundhouse and visitor attraction in the far north of Scotland.

Dr Dimitris Theodossopoulos, senior tutor and lecturer in architectural technology and conservation at the university’s College of Art, and his students will construct a smaller model of the project’s plans to make sure it works before building the real thing.

The team behind the ambitious project to bring the prehistoric legacy of Caithness, which has more than 180 brochs, back to life will work with the university to design a mini replica of their planned broch being drawn up by a local builder, Iain Maclean, who is director and co-founder of the project and will be constructing the broch.

Maclean said: “The college will be building a model based on our broch plan design and if it passes the test then we will have scientific data to say our design is solid and we can then build it full-scale.

“This all feeds into the end product of actually being able to build a broch and it is easier to prove that it is a safe structure for the public to go into if you have already tested it in design in smaller scale.

“We are working in conjunction with Dimitris’s department and his students who will hopefully begin making this model in March. They will be coming up to Caithness and Orkney to look at some of our brochs and will be meeting the students in Caithness. Our design won’t be just a copy of any broch that exists, it will be a composite of many brochs with all the best features.

“I have to compile all this inform-ation by January for the university students. It is very exciting to collaborate with Edinburgh University and hopefully the results will help us get to the end of the project.

“This is the serious end of the structural part of it and if we were to pay for this ourselves it would cost us a fortune, so the fact that we can combine this with the education is a great thing for the project and for the students.

“If the model fails at any point at least we will know now that we have made a mistake with the design and can fix it. For me, I am going to be building this and to know we have tested it in a smaller-scale structure gives us more confidence. It is the right way to go about it.

“No-one has ever done this before and a smaller model would help prove to the planners we are serious about it. I am a builder by trade and I will be building the real thing. It is very exciting.”

Theodossopoulos said the model broch will also be used to engage the community during workshops next year. He said: “I am running courses in construction history and we are going to build a small-scale model out of small blocks to incorporate many of the project’s ideas. We are going to collect as many original features as possible and we are going to present them into this new broch.

“The model we will be building is going to be about half a metre to one metre high.

“It will also be an educational model that can be dismantled and used for communities to see how brochs are built.

“I believe it is very important to engage the communities as early as possible in the design of the broch.”