The Primary, Edinburgh


Allan Murray Architects’ design for the former Craigmillar Primary School site in Edinburgh provides an attractive mix of contemporary social housing types, set within a ‘HomeZone’ landscape,  and represents the successful working relationship AMA developed with our Client ‘Places for People’ during the development process.

The site was formed in the 1930’s as a location for the Craigmillar Primary School. It is bounded on three sides by Harewood Road, Wauchope Terrace and Niddrie Mains Terrace with the West edge now open grounds. In 2005 it was decided to refurbish the school to provide a number of business units and to retain the buildings. The boomerang shaped building may have worked well for a school however it presents some difficulties in geometry relative to the surrounding spaces.

The design aims to reconcile the existing weak urban environment by creating stronger defined building edges, reinforcing the street edge whilst also reconciling the geometry of the remainder of the site around theschool building itself.

The school’s axial geometry has been ‘book-ended’ with three storey buildings tightening up the open space on the site’s southern edge, yet leaving the school on axis as a significant building and of importance to the community. The proposals promote the concept of the ‘street’ and create a series of new public spaces and private gardens.

AMA chose a simple and robust palette of materials to create a strong and contemporary overall identity to the design. Dark brick is counter-pointed with brightly coloured pre-cast concrete window reveals and doorways that modulate and add variety to the elevations. Larger openings were employed to living areas, to create significant scale and grandeur. Within these primary openings in the brickwork are secondary infills of a timber effect ‘warming’ the overall palette of materials.

The use of brick allowed us a uniformity of material, with subtle variation, its colour and texture providing a foil to the playful window pattern. At key points of the design the simple walls transform seamlessly into frames that are sometimes glazed, and sometimes opened up to form balconies. The dark colour also provides a pleasant contrast with soft landscaping.

One of the most important aspects of successful residential schemes is the emphasis that is placed on the soft and hard landscape. Too many low-maintenance environments are alienating and sterile, too high maintenance environments present challenges to budgets. Yet one of the most significant features of successful communities is in the external environment, its specification and care, its capacity to be used well and its adaptability.

We proposed a well structured series of spaces with well designed gated courtyards, robust and mature plant selection and well detailed and constructed surfaces. Where possible ground floor flats have their own entrance doors and access to gardens, promoting ownership of green spaces and encouraging pride in these environments.

Christened The Primary, the project represents AMA’s commitment to sustainable design and environmental issues. A rigorous strategy of passive energy saving measures has been adopted, with the development forecast to reduce CO2 emissions by 27% compared to Scottish Building Regulation requirements. The design has achieved a “very good” rating on the BREEAM EcoHomes Assessment and the properties have achieved sound reduction and air tightness test results considerably in excess of the levels than required by the current Building Regulations. The scheme is also certified as Secured By Design by the police.

In addition to the proposals for the primary school site, AMA have also investigated a development strategy for the provision of future housing on neighbouring sites, thus integrating the proposals with the wider urban context of Craigmillar and the Parc Development.

Literature Quarter @ Central Library, Edinburgh

Literature Quarter @ Central Library, Edinburgh

St Mary’s Cathedral Medical Centre, Edinburgh

St Mary’s Cathedral Medical Centre, Edinburgh