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Castlepark Primary School, Irvine

Castlepark Primary School, Irvine

A refurbishment and remodelling project of an unlisted late 20th century school in Irvine, North Ayrshire.


Castlepark Primary is a purpose-built non-denominational school. It is a single storey construction and was built during the 1990’s. Prior to the redevelopment work there was a pupil roll of 335 pupils with an occupancy level of 74.6%. Schools rationalization drove the requirement to extend Castlepark as a result of the need to close the nearby John Galt Primary School. The proposed closure of Galt had been set out in North Ayrshire Council School Estate Management Plan during 2010.

A nursery, also existing on site at Castlepark, housed children in poor condition hutted accommodation. The nursery dated from around 1998 and had a capacity for 79 children. The school and nursery are situated within a residential area of Irvine with the Irvine Golf Club laying 1.5km to the east and open countryside 1.5km to the north. The Redburn Community Centre, associated grounds, play space and parking are located to the south of Castlepark Primary School whilst to the west lies the existing Castlepark Community Nursery and Community Centre. To absorb the Galt school pupils, North Ayrshire council had established that Castlepark School would need to enlarge to accommodate a roll of 500 pupils. In order to achieve this, an extension adding more classrooms and associated activity areas, cloakrooms, WCs and storage would be required. The existing kitchen and dining area would also need to be extended in size. Feasibility studies were undertaken and these studies further identified the need to form a new school entrance and school administration area, together with internal refurbishment/ redesign of existing teaching areas. 

The existing building at Castlepark was assessed by the local authority and found to be in a good enough condition to warrant re-use. The structure of the original building in particular suited open plan space use, and much of the building envelope was suitable for retention and upgrading to meet current building standards. Option appraisal was undertaken and an outline design and budget were tested in order to establish the business case. In addition to this, a further driver towards retention and re-use was the requirement for the school to be kept open during the works and decant to an off site location was not feasible or economic. To help with phasing and to simplify decant, the nursery spaces were kept running in their hutted accommodation.



A carefully thought through refurbishment and remodelling has significantly improved the learning conditions at Castlepark.

A ‘heart space’ for the school has been created and this allows for a range of the different teaching activities, social encounters and learning experiences to occur during the school day. To create the heart space the internal partitions of the original class spaces have been reconfigured to make open sided learning areas. This simple move has allowed for an increase in shared area, and makes a whole space that can be timetabled to allow practical and group lessons to be delivered. New additions to the school use sustainable materials and organic forms that create a softer profile to the school building. These parts of the design help define the relationship of the building with its play space by creating carefully thought of spaces for outdoor learning. Considerate location of entrances and classroom exits allows a good level of access to the school and also out to the external play areas.

The idea of flexible use is also incorporated within the new classroom cluster which is added at the west end of the existing building. In this cluster, a series of sliding screens allow each classroom to open up in a variety of configurations; or to wholly join as required for muster teaching, story telling and other group learning activities. This promotes the idea of togetherness between each class group and resonates with the pastoral spirit of Castlepark School being a caring community of learners. A dedicated and bespoke naturally lit dining area has also been created, which provides views out for the children, as well as a new façade to the prominent east elevation of the building.

Parents, pupils and staff were consulted throughout the project process and their views were respected in relation to the overall design. Including participation in this way was intended to help build an ethos of positive behaviour, a sense of identity, achievement and pride within the community of learners and beyond.

Castlepark Before  (2) 01 Castlepark (C) Cadzow Pelosi

Before (Image by JM Architects)                Completed Project (Image by Cadzow Pelosi)


Circulation routes are incorporated within the shared flexible learning area. This removes the need for corridor space and greatly helps with improving the opportunities for social interactions, informal encounters, and also creates space efficiencies within the plan of the building. All circulation routes have sensibly been made wide enough to allow a more flexible deployment of equipment, furniture and activities in the spaces through which they pass.

Shared activity areas have been provided as an extension of the general teaching area into the communal area of the school. This is an area where children can meet others to participate in a range of different learning activities such as: experimental work in science or design and technology, private study, IT working and study, wet area activities, music, reading, and story telling.

Multi-purpose space is located at the heart of the school and is accessible for use by all. Unlike the activity areas, this space has been physically separated from the class bases to prevent disruption of the classroom-based activities creating flexibility for timetabling and use. Designated wet areas are carefully briefed to accommodate adjustable shelving as well as ample display boards.

The dining area has been designed with moveable partitions which allow the dining and gymnasium spaces the potential to combine.

The dining space has good access to an external area for outdoor eating. This space has been designed as a natural focal point to allow children sitting down to see outside through carefully situated windows.

Toilets have been located so as to be easily reached from classrooms and other teaching areas, and also to allow access to the external play areas.



Re-assessment of the brief and the design throughout the project process allowed for rationalization. This led to efficiencies and cost savings in the design. In particular the requirement for a new build dining hall was forgone.

Undertake continual design development as the functional and user needs become clearer. At Castlepark the addition of a central teaching zone within the cluster of new class bases helped increase flexibility of use in this part of the building by creating a buffer zone with the school heart.

Client awareness of the possibilities of colour, material and simple innovation in selection of play area surfaces would have helped further enrich the external learning environment.

Elements such as ceilings, items such as floor finishes and a considered palette of bright and rich colours could have further lifted the quality and experience of the internal environment to match the quality of the sensitively considered external additions.

Undertake investigative surveys and being flexible on design options at the early stages to manage risk of unknown and unexpected events

Where possible avoid design approaches with little or no flexibility in phasing. Develop a design approach that will support simple phasing.

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