OWNER: Glasgow City Council
ARCHITECT: Gordon Murray + Alan Dunlop Architects - Alan Dunlop, Partner; Stacey Phillips, project director; Fergal Feeney, architect
CONSULTANTS: Buro Happold (engineering and lighting); City Design Co-operative (landscape); Buro; RMP Acoustic Consultants (acoustical); Sir Robert McAlpine (general contractor

ROOF LIGHTS: Brett Martin Daylight Systems
WINDOWS: Scandinavian Window Systems
CEILING SYSTEM: British Gypsum

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Building Great K-12 Schools in Economically Challenging Times
In these tough times making good school design decisions has never been more difficult or more important. To find out how some of the nation’s top architects and administrators are coping with these challenges attend Architectural Record’s Schools of the 21st Century Symposium. It will be held Friday, April 9th, at the Hyatt McCormick Place in Chicago, the day before the NSBA Conference. The event is free of charge and is being presented with the support of McGraw-Hill Education and the American Architectural Foundation.

Click here for more information.

CASE STUDY: Hazelwood School, Glasgow, Scotland, Gordon Murray + Alan Dunlop Architects

Pavilion in a Park
Hazelwood School connects sensory-impaired students to the landscape.
By David Sokol

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The 46 youngsters attending Hazelwood School in Glasgow, Scotland, have met stringent admissions criteria, but these are not qualifications most parents would wish for their children. Hazelwood’s students, who range in age from 2 to 19, endure dual-sensory impairment. In addition to deafness and blindness, “they all have learning difficulties, many are in wheelchairs, and some display challenging behavior,” head teacher Monica McGeever explains. Hazelwood focuses on teaching life skills.

Sitting on the edge of Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park, Hazelwood School wraps around old trees and follows the contours of the topography.
Photo: © Andrew Lee

“They may never be able to live completely independent lives,” notes Alan Dunlop, who has run Gordon Murray + Alan Dunlop Architects (GM+AD) with partner Gordon Murray since 1997. In 2004 the Glasgow-based studio won the competition to design a new building for Hazelwood. In the year that the $9 million building has been in operation, the students have been thriving, demonstrating greater independence and marked improvement in their communication skills, says McGeever.

Previously, Hazelwood’s student population was divided between two schools: a 25-year-old former military facility that suffered from disrepair, and an Edwardian villa whose traditional layout restricted children’s movement. Upon reviewing maintenance costs for both facilities, Glasgow City Council determined to build a single venue. Due to the complex student profile, the municipality also decided to sponsor a design competition for the building.

GM+AD won the competition without any prior school buildings in its portfolio, and Dunlop admits that the look and feel of Hazelwood evolved dramatically over the course of design development. In the earliest schemes, “classrooms, music room, and clinician rooms were like stepping-stones along a linear route,” he says. “Now there is still a clear route with well-defined elements along it, but it’s much more sensual.”

Hazelwood School
Site Plan:
1) Administration 2) Hydrotherapy pool/gym 3) Lobby 4) Dining/assembly 5) Nursery 6) General classroom 7) Focus-learning classroom 8) Life-skills home 9) Subject-specific classrooms

Click to enlarge
Hazelwood School
Section A-A:
1) Central circulation spine 2) Focus-learning classroom 3) Subject-specific classroom

Hazelwood’s plan resembles a sea horse with its long axis running roughly east–west. Ten classrooms occupy half as many volumes protruding gently from the sinuous north elevation, while additional functions, such as the music room and library, dot the opposite side of the building; the two sets of spaces face an internal street. A gymnasium, hydrotherapy pool, and kitchen are nestled into the western terminus of the structure, and a wedge-shaped multi-use cafeteria and entrance area sit immediately adjacent to this cluster.

The design responds to several constituencies at once. Hazelwood is located on the site of a dairy near Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park. Since that building’s demolition in 1926, “the community had considered the site to be part of the park itself,” Dunlop explains. The school’s plan is in part a response to neighbors’ concerns about the construction of the building. The curvilinear form follows the contours of the site and accommodates three massive beech trees. Richard East, director of local landscape consultant City Design Co-operative, says only two trees were removed. A low-slung zinc roof melds with the topography, while its Siberian larch cladding will weather to a soft gray similar to slate shingles applied to other walls. Soon Hazelwood should appear more like a landscape feature than architecture.

“Bringing the trees into the design helps form external classroom spaces,” Dunlop also notes. Indeed, garden spaces where teachers can calm children one-on-one are appended to each classroom. The weaving of landscape into the architectural design soothes teachers, too. “It’s an incredibly intense job these guys do,” says Dunlop. “The building is designed as much to relieve that kind of pressure as to support the children.”

Hazelwood’s bucolic setting suffuses the 29,000-square-foot interior. Louver-protected glazing and clerestory windows surround the internal street, showering it with daylight. Clerestories dominate the classrooms, since expansive full-height windows could distract those students who have partial sight. “We wanted to make students aware of the change of the seasons, the falling of rain, different smells,” Dunlop says. GM+AD never wavered from its intention of building with timber, which the architect calls “warm and good to touch—it creates a non-institutional feeling.”

Institutional is exactly what Hazelwood isn’t. There are few handrails; instead blind students follow a “sensory wall”—a folded cork plane lining one side of the internal street—to guide themselves between rooms. “We were asked to not make everything too safe,” Dunlop says. Outside, students feel the sun-warmed slate or larch slats for wayfinding cues, and East’s landscape design is punctuated by unprotected steps. “There are corners in this building, there are challenges,” McGeever says of Hazelwood’s non-risk-averse design, “the world is not built like a school environment.” She adds, “Plus, safe buildings sometimes equate to boring buildings. With some students here for as long as 15 years, we didn’t want a building that was boring.”

Volumes as well as slim walls project from the sinuous building in order to effectively partition the outdoor space for different functions.
Photo: © Keith Hunter


Hazelwood School’s 10 classrooms feature generous storage space. Clerestory windows provide plentiful ambient daylight, without the glare, or views to the outdoors that could distract partially sighted children.
Photo: © Andrew Lee

A cork-wrapped “sensory wall” helps students find their way through Hazelwood’s main corridor (above).
Photo: © Andrew Lee