At this year’s Glasgow Institute of Architects [GIA] Design Award ceremony, held in Glasgow’s Oran Mor on Friday 14th November, Holmes Miller secured the 2014 GIA Education Design Award for Kirkmichael Primary School.
The outstanding new Primary School promotes a locally distinctive and contemporary design solution which is based upon an understanding of South Ayrshire’s rural character – its landscape, settlements and the way in which they interact. Holmes Miller’s sensitive design approach was to design a bespoke new building which would skilfully reconcile the requirements of a thoroughly modern school, while providing facility for the wider community in an architectural language appropriate to its setting.
The resultant sympathetic built form positively contributes to the extant ‘urban’ grain of the village, establishing a clear civic presence for the school building as a visual focal point for the neighbourhood. The building form represents an interpretation of disaggregated farm-steadings which have been linked and clustered together in a nucleated form that defines and controls movement through and around the new school building. The design utilises steep symmetrically pitched roof shapes together with a simple long narrow plan form, typical of most rural locations, and flat, minimally articulated facades with a greater mass of wall to window to considerately integrate the school into its rural setting and landscape. External finishes of render, timber, stone and slate create a modern contemporary style and provide a robust and low maintenance finish replicating the traditional vernacular style.
Careful nestling of buildings into the existing morphology lowers the scale of the facility to an appropriate height for the rural setting. Internally, open and bright teaching and break out areas benefit from stimulating building volumes with a permeable edge to all spaces ensuring an interactive and inclusive environment.
Designed to sensitively balance security whilst ensuring a welcoming, functional and sophisticated environment, the variety of spatial experiences encourage and stimulate social and educational interaction. Separate access points facilitate the school teaching areas being secured and locked down when the hall is used out of school hours by the community and/or if the community are using the hall during the school day to ensure pupil safety is never compromised. The elegant design of the entrance sequence enables the shared use of the school and community facility with direct and separate access, providing diverse opportunities to the community at large, promoting social inclusion and providing a point of focus for the neighbourhood.
The brief for Kirkmichael Primary School was for a new build non-denominational state school serving a small rural village community; a key element of South Ayrshire Council’s commitment to neighbourhood development and lifelong learning, is ensuring that new schools are located in the heart of the community as a centre of learning excellence. The new build project replace the existing 1970s facility, which was no longer fit to meet the demands of a 21st century education. The new facility can accommodate 75 pupils.
Kirkmichael Primary School is an Integrated Community School which encourages closer joint working among education, health & social work agencies and professionals, greater pupil and parental involvement in schools, with an improved support provision for vulnerable children and young people.
Following Holmes Miller’s very successful Heathfield Primary School project with South Ayrshire Council, (RIAS Design Award 2012, Scottish Design Award Commendation 2012, RIAS Andrew Doolan Award Shortlisted 2012), they were appointed to design and deliver the new-build Kirkmichael Primary School in autumn 2011.
Kirkmichael is a small, friendly and picturesque conservation village nestling between the green fields of Carrick, Ayrshire and the hills and woods of the Galloway forest park. This small rural community is characterised by its attractive white harled buildings, its distinctive white gable ends and its farmsteadings building formations. Located on the southern edge of Kirkmichael the school is located on a gushet between the main Straiton Road (B7045) and Bolestyle Road. The site is overlooked and has a prominence as you approach Kirkmichael by road from the south requiring the new school to have a high architectural quality, essential to take into account this high visual impact. The sub-division of the site was designed to sensitively balance the security guidelines of Secured by Design and the Cullen Report to providing a non-institutional, welcoming, functional and sophisticated environment with a variety of stimulating spatial experiences to encourage and engender pupil gathering for social and educational interaction. The new parking area eliminates conflict between pedestrian and vehicular movement, while new vehicle parking and delivery access, maintains access from Woodside Avenue.
Our approach for Kirkmichael Primary School was to promote a locally distinctive and contemporary design solution which is based upon an understanding of South Ayrshire’s rural character. The design emphasises the need to retain the local distinctiveness and character of Kirkmichael whilst promoting new development which is sustainable in the long term and is thoughtfully designed for its specific location - To enable opportunities to maximise the site’s potential in terms of context, internal and external space and a suitable presence, and relationship to their surroundings. It was important to maintain a human scale to the buildings, given their function and remoteness, in order to promote comfort.
The Building Zone comprises a linear building traversing east west across the site separating the public and private halves of the school and enabling the playgrounds to be secured off during the school day to prevent unauthorised access. The proposed School and Nursery main entrances off a shared concourse have been located as a key node across the security line to control flow of people between the public and private sides. The security line incorporates control gates providing access to the playgrounds for pupils arriving and leaving the school at the beginning and end of each school day.
The entrance concourse utilises high quality material to enhance the “civic” feel of the building’s public face. The entrance area is paved in a simple contemporary design, with seating and planting, creating a welcoming open space for visitors to the school.
All teaching accommodation has been located on the southern private half of the building zone, opening directly out onto the playground and landscaping beyond. Area to the rear of the school will provide increased playground space integrated with the existing and enhanced soft landscaping scheme.
The layout of the playground areas reflects a mixture of soft and hard landscaping to create interest and includes amphitheatre style informal seating and external classrooms.
Soft landscaping is reflective and sympathetic to surrounding landscaping context, with provision of native species and flowers as appropriate. Consideration in the specification of landscape species was given to ensure the designs provide for interest year round, but specifically within the school term.
Each farmsteadings has its own slate pitched roof, linked together via a single storey flat sedum roof that binds the elements together under one roof. External finishes of render, timber cladding, stone and slate roofs have been utilised in a modern contemporary style with clipped edges to minimise complicated interfaces, providing a robust, hard wearing and low maintenance finish to replicate the traditional rural vernacular style prevalent within South Ayrshire. These traditional materials are complimented with the introduction of modern green roof technology to further enhance the rural countryside appearance.
“The new building has exceeded all our expectations and the children were in complete awe when they finally saw their school. The joy in their faces as they entered the building for the first time was very special and I know we’re all going to be very happy in this great new school! … The building we enjoy today is the result of a huge investment by South Ayrshire Council, and is a bright, spacious modern school, which has been admired and appreciated by everyone. We now have a high quality modern learning environment, which along with our dedicated and caring team of staff, will prepare the children to develop the skills and knowledge they need for the future.” Mrs Karen Butchart – Head Teacher (Shared Head Teacher with Straiton PS)
“This project clearly demonstrates our commitment to rural education and I am absolutely thrilled to see Kirkmichael primary school open – it really is a fantastic building … Our £2.3 million investment in this new school will deliver a huge boost to learning in the local area and I hope it will become a well-used and important community focal point delivering high-quality modern learning in a superb educational environment.
Most importantly of all, the young people – and our staff – love it!”
Councillor Margaret Toner, Portfolio Holder for Lifelong Learning.