Donaldson's School for the Deaf is one of the most famous and distinctive buildings in Edinburgh and was designed by Edinburgh's foremost architect William Playfair in the 1840s. The design was massively influenced by Elizabethan manor houses, in particular Burleigh House in Northamptonshire. The School decided to relocate in 2003 and CALA Homes were the successful bidders for the site at which point they asked for our involvement.
The project proposes converting the existing building into approximately seventy flats with the construction of a further seventy on land to the north hidden from view of what is considered to be the important vista of the building from the main street, West Coates. Whilst the exterior of the building and indeed the elevation of the central courtyard is a wonderful gothic fantasy the interiors of the building generally disappoint. On the ground and first floor the classrooms and dormitories of the former school are sufficiently high to allow subdivision vertically into two and three bedroom maisonettes. Generally these are organised in such a way that the new construction is clearly delineated from the original interiors.
The landscaping of the site by our colleagues EDAW takes into account the need for extensive underground car parking and the existing plinth both to east and west of the original building has been extended and adapted to form an underground car park for the existing building and this continues under the crescent around the rear of the site providing similar underground car parking for the new flats.
The flats to the rear are already sunk down using the natural section of the site so that they are virtually invisible from the south. However they form a grand crescent broken in the centre to allow views of the chapel from the north. This grand crescent is united by the device of a moving louvred facade so that the simplicity of the facade contrasts with the complicated nature of the Playfair original. The flats themselves consist of three storeys with the top storey having access to private roof terraces which will give extensive views not only of the Donaldsons' magical turretted roofscape but also out towards the north over the trees and towards the sea. The crescent of flats has front doors, unusually, along the convex side of crescent with the garden space between the two being reserved for these residents.
The project was granted planning permission in June 2005 but will not start on site until after the school has moved in 2007.
|Architects||Richard Murphy, Matt Bremner, Peter Guthrie, Tina Bergman|