Erskine Stewart's Melville School, Edinburgh

The completion of the Reid House extension marks the first major construction element of our wider masterplan for the redevelopment of Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools Junior School on their Queensferry Road campus.

The works comprise an extension and alterations to an existing 1800s villa - Reid House - 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.

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 new building and the existing.

Building on the strong arrangement of existing garden walls that surround the villas, the design externally 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; a route which will link into the future phases of the masterplan, setting the tone for the rest of the school and the activities therein.

Above the plinth, and at the primary ground floor entrance level, 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, anchored by a wall of high quality ashlar stone. 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 Stewarts Melville School’s inaugural light opera in 1954.

Photography credit: Ross Campbell

  • Reid House extension

  • Junior School entrance

  • Rehersal Room

  • Entrance portal

  • Circulation