The Westwater Building, Dollar Academy

This modest pavilion teaching building, nestles into the site at the foot of the Ochil Hills alongside the impressive principle school building, designed by William Henry Playfair. It forms a component of Dollar Academy’s new ‘Teaching L’ which edges the all weather hockey pitch, conceived as an open ‘quad’ at the heart of the campus.

Accommodating 10 new classrooms, five on each floor, the lower of which are expressed within a weighty, solid brick plinth, with the remainder occupying a lighter glazed viewing pavilion floating above. Circulation through the building on both levels is orientated to the south, animating the more public external façade with wide corridors on the upper level acting as a viewing gallery out towards the striking grounds and on the lower level a loggia to the circulation route around the hockey pitch. In this way the building whilst accommodating teaching functions also performs in the abstract as a stadium structure to the overlooked sports setting.

This character is a result of offsetting the section, creating at ground floor the covered loggia and sitting space sheltered by the cantilevered floating glazed access galleria to the classrooms above. The lower floor as a result is set into the terraced hillside, with these offset upper classrooms allowing light down into the ground floor rooms. Ventilation chimneys dimensioned to this offset, anchor the streamlined form to the ground, mark the plan extent of each room and provide these lower rooms with fresh air. The upper level classrooms sit under the canted roof framed by the cantilevered access galleria to one side and to the other the ventilation chimneys beyond.

A reinforced concrete retaining wall and ground floor slab set into the slope negotiates the level change and provide the base for the steel frame to first and roof level. A brick plinth wraps around from the sides and up the back of the pavilion and ventilation towers into the frame of which the timber cladding and metal frame glazing are set under the zinc roof and edge profiling.

To the front, large panels of glass can slide open to let in fresh air through vertical louvre timber slats an echo of the timber to the side and rear. Timber bench seating is provided to the classroom side, a quality which is continued into the circulation core, the focal stair of which comprises a series of closely spaced vertical timber planks running the full height of the entrance, an echo of the vertical ventilation slats, a vertical containment of the journey upwards contrasting with the full expanse of the horizontal vista across the grounds of the school.

  • External view across hockey pitch

  • Entrance approach

  • Entrance

  • Evening external view

  • Main staircase
  • Main staircase and glazed lightwell

  • Classroom with study space

  • Classroom

  • Upper floor circulation

  • Ventilation chimneys