With the death rate in Scotland from drugs and alcohol having doubled in the last 15 years, Interior Design graduate Helen Makenzie highlights the importance of space and environment in her vision of a successful rehabilitation.

Dunalastair is a 50-day drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation system centred around the recovery and reconnection of addicts back into society. The designed system consists of five stages based on a snakes and ladders analogy. Aiming to eliminate negative influences within stages, recovering addicts progress and regress depending on their personal development. The system flows though a redesigned 1850s Scottish baronial style ruin located on the Dunalastair Estate in central Scotland.


The complementary curved glass extension was inspired by element of the detailed existing building. These main elements being: the crow stepped gables, the turrets and the arches which concealed a hidden indoor garden within the core of the building. Throughout the entire system the recovering addicts face competitive daily challenges aimed to motivate personal progress. Furthermore, this environment encourages the creation of new relationships developing into support networks in later stages.

Both buildings provide a bright calming atmosphere which encourages reflection and self growth. The curved arched glass exterior of the new extension creates a peaceful welcoming environment which aims to bring the recovering addicts closer to nature through framing the surrounding forest.


Daily challenge spaces for each stage are located within the existing building, including: a workshop, gym, gaming area, library and additional adaptable space. Outdoor challenges also play an important role within the system.

A circular water feature which doubles as a swimming pool in warmer months is located within the core oval cut out area between the existing and new building. Additionally, bridges at opposite ends of this water feature invite users into a growing garden space surrounded by flowing water. This garden space enables communal growing and cooking to create a sense of community within each stage.

See more of Helen’s work via her website helenmack.co.uk or follow her @helenmack_design.