We were drawn to The Island That Is Not There simply because of the region’s name. A Homestead designed by Franz Markstein, it presents a rugged island setting with a mix of influences that give the region a strangely eclectic, but flowing look and feel.
Second star to the right and straight on till morning, this is the way to the island that is not there.
– Franz Markstein, describing The Island That Is Not There
It is a place without obvious paths and no roads, but with a definite east-west orientation, the eastern side a high table of rock, backed in part by a natural curtain wall. The ruins of a once great chapel sit here, and before them, a mix of shop, houses and cabins sitting on the first rocky steps that descend down to the western beaches.
More houses are scattered around, most with a Mediterranean slant, although the setting doesn’t have the usual trappings of a Mediterranean location, but projects something of a feel for a rugged Scottish isle. A bubbling brook splashes down from the eastern uplands to the western coast. It rises without warning at the head of a gully – presumably there is a underground wellspring – and bounces and splashes its way between rocks and over rapids, gurgling as it goes, until it passes under a hump-backed bridge to drop to the sea alongside a small beach.
Boats sit offshore, mainly of the sailing or rowing varieties. Some of the latter offer places to sit and pose, while the former – surprisingly – are also open for people to sit and stand aboard, offering unusual (for a public setting) opportunities for photographs – as does the biplane passing overhead.
One of the rowing boats is not merely for posing in, however. It forms a rezzer and a way to reach the outlying islands. One of these offering a little summerhouse / getaway, with seating, art and a distressed piano that can also be found within the walls of the ruined chapel (amidst other bric-a-brac). The second island is set aside of events, with a DJ station and grassy dance area which, during my return visit for photos, was hosting a set. Sadly, there are no rezzrs for a return row to the main island, so flying is the order of the day.
Building on so rugged a setting can cause one or two issues. While mesh can easily be moulded into uneven rocky forms, it’s not so easy to shape when it comes to grasses and flowers. This can result in expanses of grass appearing to float in the air when the rock in which it was placed drops away. It also means that buildings without deep footings can end up with gaps between them and the ground beneath them. Some of this is evident here; one or two of the buildings and walls could perhaps do with settling a little more, or have “foundations” set beneath them.
There are also one or two elements of the landscape – notably along the western beach and the waterfalls of the brook – that perhaps need tidying up and gaps eliminated, but really none of these issues spoil exploration or photography. For the latter, adjusting the sun position or changing your local windlight can overcome the odd awkward gap or strangely-placed shadow. This is fortunate, because there really is much to appreciate about the overall design.
Finished with a rich sound scape, and with plenty to see, The Island That Is Not There makes for a pleasing visit. Should people wish to tarry, there are enough places to sit without feeling crowded. Ideal under a range of windlight settings, it also offers plenty of opportunities for landscape and avatar photography.