Erskine Stewart’s Melville Junior School
Erskine Stewart's Melville Schools
Queensferry Rd, Edinburgh
A Stable Block for the Grand House in the Landscape
The completion of the Reid House extension marks the first major construction element in the redevelopment of Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools Junior School on their Queensferry Road campus. The works comprise an extension and alterations to the existing Reid House, an 1800s villa on the edge of the campus, and home to ESMS’s music department. The extension provides a new front door to the Junior School marked by a gated entrance portal.
Building on the strong arrangement of existing garden walls that surround the villas, the design of the lower ground floor can be seen as a continuation of this walled garden theme, acting as a solid plinth to a lighter and more contemporary element on top. This plinth melds into a series of steps, giving the main entrance a strong presence and relationship to the route through the site. Above the plinth, a series of intricately detailed window units express a regular rhythm, echoing the structure and classical regularity of the traditional buildings on the wider site. The over-sailing roof at the building entrance sets the language for an elegant and delicate roofline, anchoring the building firmly in its context.
At the edge of the campus, a new entrance portal marks the route into the School. Steel bars in the bespoke gates twist in a pattern expressing the first notes of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”, performed at the closing of Erskine Stewart’s Melville School’s inaugural light opera in 1954.
Envisaged in six phases, Page\Park’s masterplan was shaped for delivery over a number of years. It focused on the replacement or adaptation of much of the current Junior School’s accommodation, in the monumental setting of the main school building, the category-A listed Daniel Stewart’s College designed in the Neo Jacobethan style by David Rhind, and first opened as a hospital in 1855. Page\Park’s masterplan conceived the Junior School as a village of buildings and classrooms in the setting of the main college – “stable blocks of the grand house in the landscape” – and so at the heart of the masterplan was the new ‘village square’.
The new building at ground floor houses a reception area for the Junior School, headmaster’s office and administration suite, along with a rehearsal suite for the music school. Below, in the lower ground floor, six practice rooms and two classrooms provide essential teaching space. The extension links to the existing building with an open circulation stair, with a rooflight above wrapping around the villa’s existing oriel window – a tangible link between the existing and new.