At the end of last year, we decided to temporarily close Bonhoga for a much-needed refurbishment. Leading on this exciting project is née gibson architects, with funding generously provided by the Shetland Charitable Trust Capital Grants Scheme. Our primary goal is to modernise Bonhoga, ensuring it becomes more energy-efficient and accessible while remaining a vibrant hub for Shetland's creative community.

Initially, we aimed to reopen Bonhoga's doors in 2024. However, as with any ambitious plans, we've encountered a few delays along the way. Nevertheless, we remain committed to maintaining Bonhoga throughout this process with regular maintenance checks, particularly regarding heating to prevent any deterioration.

These upgrades are necessary and we are delighted about the prospect of future-proofing Bonhoga for many more years to come. Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Adrian, Director of née gibson architects to discuss the plans for Bonhoga, the highlights of the refurbishment, potential challenges and the project's next steps.

What made née gibson architects interested in the Bonhoga project?

We were delighted to be able to provide our architectural and contractual skills to keep the building fit for purpose and to be more energy efficient. Bonhoga is an important element of Shetland's built heritage that provides a vital outlet for the Arts, and is very popular as one of the few eateries in the west side of Shetland.

Can you tell us about some of the most exciting aspects of the refurbishment project?

It’s literally a top-down refurbishment that will almost be as thorough as the work that was done to convert the ruinous mill in the early 1990s. What excites us most is the opportunity to refine how the building layout can be used by the public and to the improve energy efficiency of any building. That is very rewarding for us. If as a result of the work we can also improve the viability of the building for the owner, delivering added value is an aim of ours on every project.

What are the challenges we will be facing during the refurbishment process?

Probably sourcing the required new materials within the budget, given the current challenges of the local and national construction industry. Otherwise we are confident that between née gibson architects and H James Nisbet Surveyors, we can deliver the project for Shetland Arts.

Can you highlight any unique elements or features that will be preserved during the refurbishment?

Essentially the outward appearance of the building should remain the same, which is important as there is no need to change the architectural quality of the traditional building or 1990’s modifications, they work well. Internally, the pitch pine floor beams, stairs and layout will remain but it’s intended that new wall linings will be provided as part of the improvement of the thermal fabric of the outer walls and roof. It’s also intended that the conservatory glazing will be improved, and enlarging the toilets. Essentially, we hope to preserve the character of the building, and its function as a conduit for the Arts.

What are the next steps in the project?

We are about to prepare the statutory consent applications over the spring, with continuous progress to construction and completion in 2025, all going to plan.

Despite the challenges, Bonhoga's refurbishment project is underway with the expertise of née gibson architects, H James Nisbet Surveyors and support from the Shetland Charitable Trust Capital Grants Scheme. We're grateful for your ongoing support and interest in Bonhoga's journey. Stay tuned for further developments...

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