Portobello High School

Portobello high school is a new innovative community based learning environment set on the southern edge of Portobello Park in Edinburgh.




City of Edinburgh Council



The school was carefully positioned on this sensitive site in order to minimise its visual impact within this residential neighbourhood. Existing mature trees have been retained while the building section allows for a 2 storey massing to the adjacent residential streets and a three storey elevation to the north. This configuraion offers distant views over Portobello Park and the Firth of Forth for the pupils and teachers within whilst preserving views of Arthur’s Seat from the eastern edge of the park. Educationally, we worked in close collaboration with Space Strategies in the development of innovative and flexible educational spaces.

A lot of emphasis has been placed on the design of breakout spaces which encourages departmental collaboration and provides bespoke independent learning areas. At the heart of the school is a large linear collaboration space on the middle level that overlooks all the shared spaces and has a major wayfinding role within the school layout. This space in turn links to social and informal study spaces that relate back to sheltered courtyards and the open views of the surrounding landscape. The central level provides the main circulation areas, minimising travel between subjects, whilst the lower level, accessed via a grand staircase, provides communal spaces of assembly and dining.

The west entrance provides an alternative access and departure point for pupils and gives access to the lower floor accommodation. The accommodation is generally arranged with teaching rooms to the quieter north side, except for music which is to the south side of the school, and on the same level as the assembly space. The new school will cater for 1400 pupils along with new leisure and community facilities for the Portobello area. These facilities include a 25m four lane swimming pool, Games Hall, Large Gym, Multi-Purpose gymnasium, 2 all-weather illuminated pitches, which will also be available for community use.

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The Challenge

The development of a large new build high school building within the context of a public park in a busy suburban area.

The Solution

The design offset the loss of open space through maximising the publicly accessible areas of the site, and through the provision of enhanced public playing fields and footpaths. The proposals include two full-size all-weather football pitches to the east of the site that will be available for public use.

The Outcome

The local residents of Portobello now enjoy a sensitively designed, purpose-built high school with some of the best educational, sporting and performance resources in Scotland. Alongside this, a significant amount of public open space has been retained and enhanced adjacent to the school site.

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