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Notre Dame Primary School, Glasgow

Notre Dame Primary School, Glasgow

This project co-locates two schools and an early years centre re-using a disused listed Primary School, sensitive new build elements provide community use spaces. 


This remodelled large primary school houses the co-location of Notre Dame Primary School, St Peter’s Primary School, and Anderson Street Nursery into the buildings of the former Dowanhill Primary School in the West End of Glasgow.

The project commenced in 2006 with early discussions between the Head Teachers of nearby Notre Dame Primary School, St Peter’s Primary School, and Anderson Street Nursery. These had been identified as suitable for merging due to projected falling school rolls and the fabric condition of their existing buildings. Dowanhill Primary School’s population had also shrunk to approximately 80 pupils.

Education services merged these four, and in July 2011 the pupils and staff of Dowanhill left the building for the summer holidays for the last time in 120 years (1894) taking up residence in August in their new home – Hillhead Primary School. The initial proposal was to demolish the Dowanhill Public School building and replace it with a new building. However in 2006  Historic Scotland listed Dowanhill as Category C. Feasibility studies looking at design options, including new-build, façade retention, and refurbishment and extension were undertaken. The refurbishment and extension option was selected on grounds of the school building listed status, and its location within a conservation area.



The approach taken at Notre Dame Primary School works sensitively within the local tenemental area providing a variety of learning spaces.

Rational Plan:

All classrooms have been located within the original 1894 building. Ceiling heights on the lowest level have been adapted to accommodate classes in former service spaces. Changes were made to the main entrance and administration office locations to improve access and functionality. The refurbishment of the existing atrium creates a breathing space for the whole school and offers opportunity for social encounters and learning activities. Overall the existing building type is well adapted to suit the spatial needs for the new school.

New Build Element

The strategy for locating and stacking new build spaces drew from the need to minimise the impact on the existing play space. New build element contains nursery spaces at lower ground floor, core functions and a new learning space at ground floor, and the school hall sports spaces, which sit in the upper levels of the extension. Material for the new build extension has been selected to blend into the surrounding sandstone apartment buildings.

Notre Dame Before (c )Grzegorz Piechowicz (2) Notre Dame (C) Grzegorz Piechowicz (1)

Before and After Images by Grzegorz Piechowicz


A reinvigorated educational asset has been created, ensuring the connection between school and the community remains intact. Glasgow City used forward looking, careful asset husbandry and strategic planning to allow the works to commence whilst the school was empty. This managed out the requirement for decant, temporary units and complex phasing.


The project shows just how successfully a modern school can be created inside the walls of an old building; and also how whole school spaces can successfully be integrated and accommodated on a tight urban site.

Before renewal the school was lying empty and at risk of demolition. Listing helped preserve the school building for reuse by the co-located schools and this brought the building back into educational use.

At the beginning of the renewal process parents and members of the community remained unconvinced as to whether the school could be successfully transformed. At the completion of the renewal this position was reversed and now the community is pleased with a renewed learning and community asset.

Confidence and belief in refurbishment at Notre Dame has been built through all party participation in the process at each project stage and pupils, teachers and parents were involved in developing the approach to the refurbishment at the school

Re-appropriation of the listed building has supported changes to fabric and series of key spatial adaptations required to create an effective modern learning environment. Education driven briefing was developed in support of this level of change. Briefing has been based both on the authorities extensive experience and the results of careful consultation to capture the experience of other stakeholders.

A well managed estate should represent and deliver best value. Capital costs for the inclusion of renewables were prioritised and the technical approaches pursued resulted in high build costs.

Notre Dame (C) Grzegorz  Piechowicz 13 (2)

Images by Grzegorz Piechowicz

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