Elderbank Primary School and Early Years

The new build Elderbank Primary school and Early Years is integrated into the residential area of Broomlands and provides a series of flexible teaching spaces that are interlinked with large, shared breakout spaces. External playground platforms and path networks embrace the sloping site down to the parkland below.




North Ayrshire Council



Elderbank Primary School and Early Years is located within the residential area of Broomlands in Irvine. The site was extremely challenging as the new school was to be built on a confined section of land to the rear of the existing outdated school, which would remain in full operation during construction of the new school. The rear of the site was also steeply sloping down to parkland below, which was also prone to flooding, and it became apparent that the contractor would have to construct a temporary haul road along the perimeter of the parkland below to allow construction traffic to access the site from below due to spatial constraints around the existing school. Following construction of the new school, the existing school was demolished to allow the car park, external games area and access networks to be constructed.
jmarchitects held early design workshops with North Ayrshire Council to develop their brief requirements and this interface with the wider stakeholders allowed us to understand their aspirations and propose a design approach that dealt with the complexities of the constrained site ensuring that the brief developed, and that design and project aspirations were achieved. Central to the scheme is an informal double height circulation spine that contains organic shaped timber clad pods that have a relationship to the spine whilst popping through the curtain walling to connect with the courtyard spaces beyond whilst office spaces occupy the other side of the spine.
Various access points lead to the classroom blocks which offer flexible teaching environments where the classbases are grouped around a larger central informal breakout zone and the classbase doors and / or walls can be opened up to provide flexible interaction with the breakout space or closed down to provide an enclosed teaching environment. A designated ASL teaching wing is accompanied by a sensory garden to provide facilities for pupils if specific assisted teaching is required during the school day. Externally, the sloping site provided an opportunity to provide an elevated play deck that overlooks the sloping wooded bank to the parkland below. The site and play areas then extend into newly planted landscaping, providing a zig zag path network through the developing landscape to provide a learning garden for the future that then leads to the parkland below for external formal play.

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The Challenge

Creating a new primary school and early years facility on a confined site to the rear of the existing school (which would remain in operation during construction), adjacent to a steep slope at the rear, leading down to an area of land prone to flooding and dealing with the logistics of site traffic.

The Solution

Working closely with North Ayrshire Council and the main contractor allowed us to develop a contemporary educational facility that satisfied the aspirations of the brief, dealing with the complexities of a challenging site, whilst exploiting the south facing views to provide a building that offers flexibility, openness, natural light and ventilation.

The Outcome

A contemporary school building formed through collaborative teamwork on a very challenging site that provides North Ayrshire Council with an educational facility that offers the opportunity for an open collaborative learning environment, where the children can utilise flexible interchangeable teaching spaces within the building to allow them to interact with pupils of various ages and the opportunity to learn from each other.

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