Donaldson’s SEN College, Linlithgow

The new school provides state-of-the-art educational facilities for the teaching of deaf and speech and language impaired pupils, including Scotland’s only Deaf Studies Department.




Donaldson’s College



jmarchitects were required to provide a design solution for this compact urban site which resolved numerous technical and contextual challenges including: the dramatic topography of the site; existing escape routes and services; enhancement of adjoining public spaces; mitigation of road noise; gaining full advantage of the superb views from the site and integrating sensitively into the Old Town roofscape whilst protecting the historic Edinburgh skyline.

Visually the entrance comprises of a double height space which connects to the 2 storey secondary wing while the single storey primary wing ‘guides’ the visitor’s eye to the entrance. Within this volume visual links are created from the staff accommodation via full height glass panels back to the entrance volume which connects to the building’s heart.

This heart comprises of the school’s assembly, gym, library, pool and dining functions. Situated in the centre of the plan these facilities have the ability to be shared by the secondary and primary schools. 

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The Challenge

Previously accommodated in a Grade A Listed Playfair building, the brief was to design a de-institutionalised contemporary design that could provide a purpose built set of relationships between the required facilities with a range of accommodation which would create an environment to enable contemporary teaching practice with the pupils.

The Solution

The new building has been designed in close collaboration with staff, pupils and governors to accommodate the curriculum that Donaldson’s has developed to meet the needs of its pupils at nursery, primary and secondary levels, along with their continuing commitment to national priorities of raising attainment and social inclusion.

The Outcome

In essence, the building provides the wide ranging activities required by the school. Its design is assertive yet its organisation is finely tuned. Its recognition of location is key, yet its colouring and materials are muted with coloured accents highlighting certain key windows and functions.

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