George Watson’s College, Upper Primary Building
The Merchant Company Education Board
Colinton Road, Edinburgh
Internal Floor Area
A new gateway to the Junior School.
In 2017 Page\Park were given the opportunity to develop the next phase of George Watson’s evolving masterplan; the refurbishment and extension of the existing Upper Primary Building to create a new western gateway to the Junior School.
The project gives the school a new entrance and reception space, strengthening the identity of the Junior school within the wider campus. The accommodation includes administrative offices; 6 music practice rooms; 2 music classrooms; 5 new build classrooms and the adaptive reuse of 2 existing classrooms including adjacent circulation space. Traditional class bases are supported by innovative and adaptable open plan areas to encourage social learning processes, taking the form of a library, learning forum, tiered seating area, learning lab and outdoor teaching space.
The aim of this project, among others, was to provide the Junior School – comprising the Lower Primary School (P1 – P3), Upper Primary School (P4 – P7) and Preschool (Aged 5 and under) – with its own identity. As a result, the Upper Primary extension, holds a prominent position along the western boundary of the school campus and creates a distinctive marker. A landscaped pedestrian path leads from the street to the main entrance helping to shape the new gateway to the Junior School. Overlooked by ground floor offices and internal circulation a new ramped entrance way provides a clear route in whilst maximising accessibility and ensuring safe access. Making the most of the southern aspect, integrated stepped timber seating can also be used as an outdoor classroom.
Massing & Scale
Envisioned as a friendlier face to the institutional existing building, the extension matches its massing, height and floor levels. The west elevation steps up to create a clear and defined arrival point. In contrast to the existing render clad building, the extension exterior is clad in blonde sandstone, providing a low maintenance, hard wearing and visually distinctive appearance. A red sandstone base continues the datum of the existing red sandstone plinth and the entrance pend is then softened by larch cladding. Metal elements are finished in a muted green tone reminiscent of the neighbouring greenery of Merchiston Gardens.
Throughout the design process the initial brief evolved in response to the George Watson’s needs. Page\Park’s project team engaged in a structured consultation process with a steering group from the school, teachers, pupils and adjacent local community in order to understand the fundamental requirements, constraints and overall aspiration of the project brief and existing masterplan. Aided by a series of models built by Page\Park these workshops helped to develop a creative and sensitive design solution that fulfilled the school’s objectives whilst maintaining good relations with the neighbouring residents.
Matching the height of the existing Upper Primary has provided generous internal volumes. Spaces take advantage of large areas of glazing and a clerestory, enjoying abundant natural light, as well as making the most of the schools privileged position by maximising views of the surrounding natural landscape. As discussion and collaboration is encouraged within intermediate and open plan areas much of the internal material palette was informed by acoustic requirements. Walls and ceilings are clad in timber panelling and acoustic plasterboard to ensure internal comfort. Whilst soft furnishings, floor finishes and wall colour aim to integrate nature with natural tones.
Emphasis was placed on open plan areas that support advanced collaborative, social and interactive pedagogical approaches that provoke discussion and promote the exchange of knowledge. The resulting arrangement is a series of spaces designed to suit small, medium and large groups both inside and outside of the classroom. Spaces are planned to support mobility and adapt to a multitude of activities, needs and to be easily managed. Departments are distinguished through different colour schemes and different activity areas are delineated with distinctive colours and texture.
The proposal optimizes the operational performance of an existing built asset by adapting and reusing the west wing of the existing Upper Primary Building. The extension is constructed with robust and functional materials to minimise ongoing maintenance requirements and ensure longevity. First floor classrooms and ground floor administrative/ office accommodation are orientated north to take advantage of natural light while minimising solar gain. Whereas the south facing ground floor reception area is protected by an overhanging upper floor and a canopy provides the south facing library with shade. Openable windows maximise user control and lessen dependence on mechanical ventilation. By producing electricity on site, CHP plant reduces fuel consumption and production of greenhouse gases.