Garnock Community Campus
North Ayrshire Council’s new Garnock Community Campus, designed by jmarchitects and delivered by Kier Construction for Hub South West, provides a new environment for learning for 1200 secondary school pupils, 260 primary school pupils, 45 nursery pupils, as well as community facilities including a fitness suite, 25m pool and training pool.
The £37million building is located centrally on a semi-rural site connecting Beith, Kilbirnie, Dalry and the surrounding villages, creating a focal point and extending the village of Glengarnock whilst acting as a catalyst for the regeneration of the wider Garnock Valley.
A simple material palette of soft-toned, sensitively-detailed, textural brickwork, and large-format precast concrete elements are coupled with the buildings low-lying massing creating a clean, linear aesthetic which respectfully merges with its surroundings whilst imbuing a civic quality and maximising natural light, ventilation and views from inside the building.
The building plan form consists of three wings – a Primary wing, Secondary wing and Community wing – held together by a large double-height space – ‘the heart of the school.’ Each wing takes on a different variation of an architectural language, using brick as the common material. Around the Primary and Secondary school wings, the cellular nature of classrooms is expressed externally, using units of large-format glazing set within a repeating composition of vertical brick bands relieved by horizontal elements of white precast concrete around the Primary wing, and charcoal powder-coated aluminium panels around the Secondary wing. Around the Community wing, the large volumes of the pool hall and gymnasium spaces are expressed as a masonry mass, relieved by horizontal precast concrete stringer courses and glazing at high-level, in contrast to the cellular teaching wings.
The depth of the brickwork reveal to all openings is deliberately accentuated to create the appearance of a building with a thick skin, with feature brickwork compositions punctuating key corners, creating moments of animation within the homogenous surface.
To reconcile the oft competing functions of the building as a school and a community hub, ‘active’ spaces such as Dining, Community Café, Auditorium, Library, Pool and Project Spaces are clustered in the ‘heart of the school’: a shared space which is accessible to community and school users alike, creating ‘a community building with a school at its heart’ in which learning can be seen. This allows for operation beyond traditional school times, creating a dynamic core of activity for the whole community during the day and evening, all week round.
Architecturally, this is manifested as an internal landscape with terraces of activity projecting into the central space and a large feature staircase with seating, creating opportunities for flexible learning whilst maximising views out to the beautiful Ayrshire countryside.
Inspired by the Ayrshire countryside, circulating throughout the building should feel like a metaphorical walk through the landscape: sequences of voids, stairs and level changes are arranged alongside windows and rooflights, allowing natural light to filter through the plan and connecting users to the surrounding landscape. Spines of circulation double as breakout space, extending the traditional classroom and allowing pupils to enjoy autonomy and devolved learning, whilst activating the circulation spaces to create a studious and vibrant atmosphere. A variety of learning and social spaces add a richness of experience and allow a variety of ways to teach, learn and engage.
Overlapping voids in the floor slabs, coupled with rooflights, allow light to filter through the deep plan of the building and connect users back to the outdoors.
As part of an integral spatial and environmental strategy, the concrete soffit is deliberately left exposed providing thermal mass and allowing for tall, airy, light-filled spaces with the overall aesthetic echoing the “white collar factory” office design philosophy.
This is complimented by a soft, neutral colour choice in internal finishes and fittings and softened by areas of timber detailing, creating an attractive variety of spaces for flexible learning and creativity.
Through the early involvement of the contractor in the design process, the central architectural themes were developed in close collaboration between the architect, client, builder and users to create a building which successfully satisfied the competing constraints of time, budget and architectural quality, and realised the spatial and learning opportunities in the rich architectural programme of this building typology.