We are thrilled see George Watson’s College pupils, teachers and support staff making a return to campus life, with the Princess Royal officially opening the new John Martin building at the junior school last week.
The aim of this project, among others, was to provide the junior school with its own identity within the senior school campus. The upper primary extension holds a prominent position on the western edge of the school campus and creates a distinctive new entrance. Envisioned as a friendlier face to the existing building, the extension matches its massing, height and materials but arranged in a more informal way.
The new entrance also improves pedestrian access with a landscaped path 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 accessible route ensuring safe access. Making the most of the southern aspect, integrated stepped timber seating can also be used as an outdoor classroom.
Matching the height of the existing Upper Primary has provided generous internal spaces. Our design approach focused on giving the school new open plan areas that support collaborative, social and interactive activities that provoke discussion and encourage the exchange of knowledge. The result 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 identified with distinctive colours and texture.
Large areas of glazing and a clerestory bring in abundant natural light, as well as 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 paneling and acoustic plasterboard to ensure internal comfort. Whilst soft furnishings, floor finishes and wall colour aim to integrate nature with natural tones.
The project saves embodied energy 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 give users control and lessen dependence on mechanical ventilation. By producing electricity on site, CHP provides an energy efficient means of heating the building and reducing its carbon footprint.
The project has transformed the identity of the school and the new open spaces are already having an effect on teacher and pupil behaviour. We look forward to working with the school in the future on their next innovative learning environment.
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