New Scriptorium is a studio for writers, poets and literary groups designed by artist Bobby Niven for the grounds of the 12th century Arbroath Abbey in Scotland.


Keith Hunter

The New Scriptorium was designed and created by artist Bobby Niven, the founder of the Bothy Project – a network of off-grid artists and writers retreats in Scotland.

The writing studio marks the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, which passed through Arbroath Abbey’s scriptorium or library on its journey around Scotland. The Declaration of Arbroath was sent to Pope John XXII on 6 April 1320 with the signatures and seals of over 40 Scottish noblemen and knights and called for Scottish independence under Robert the Bruce.

The New Scriptorium hosts writing and bookmaking workshops with a range of writers in residence throughout the programme.

The structure stands among the red sandstone ruins of the abbey, which was founded by King William I in 1178, and is made from interlocking prefabricated panels, which were constructed offsite before being craned into position. The simple single-room building is lit by a large skylight in the pitched roof and a floor-to-ceiling window facing the ruins.

The opaque walls are decorating with wavering arm motifs in rich magenta, blue and turquoise inspired by medieval manuscripts.


“We know that Arbroath Abbey had a very large and active community, including monks who could transcribe and illuminate documents and bound early manuscripts into books. The ability to read and write and convey information and document history was as powerful then as it is today and I wanted to reflect that activity in the design of the interior space,” says Niven.

“A large roof window floods the space with light and the serpentine arm motifs inspired by the use of manicules as notation devices in manuscripts bring colour to the floor and walls. The framing of the Abbey in the Scriptorium’s windows connect the two buildings providing context for the writer’s in residence.”


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