Hazelwood School is an education facility for up to 60 students with multiple disabilities. Each student attending the school has a combination of two or more of the following impairments: visual impairment, hearing impairment, mobility or cognitive impairment. The students are aged between 3 and 19 and the school provides education from nursery through to secondary stages.
The school itself and the Life Skills House (an independent facility used for life learning and respite) have a combined area of 2665m2 and are set within a landscaped green adjacent to Bellahouston Park.
The design of the building has focused on creating a safe, stimulating environment for its pupils and staff. The focus and ambition from both client and architect (gm+ad) at the outset was to develop a building that would eliminate as much as possible the institutional feel that a project of this nature inherently possesses. The designers worked to avoid conventional/standard details, creating a solution bespoke to the project requirements and developing a building that was entirely embodied the users needs.
The existing site was surrounded by mature lime trees and had a large lime tree and three beach trees in the centre. The building snakes through the site, curving around the existing trees. Its form creates a series of small garden spaces suitable to the small class sizes and maximises the potential for more intimate external teaching environments. Internally the curved form of the building reduces the visual scale of the main circulation spaces and helps remove the institutional feel that one long corridor would create – in addition, this also significantly reduces visual confusion by limiting the extents of the space.
The choice of materials was of great importance to the creation of a design that was both suitable in the context and exciting to the user. The design team developed a palette of highly textured natural materials that would be stimulating to touch and smell. Naturally weathering timber boarding, reclaimed slate tiles and zinc were chosen for use externally to give variety and contrast.
Navigation and orientation through the building were of critical importance and a key objective was to encourage independence for the children throughout. The concept of a trail rail was developed in the circulation area as a key initial concept, this doubled as a storage wall to deal with specific storage requirements but also established a navigational tool or device in the building which allowed the children to move around the school with a level of freedom. The wall is clad in cork, which has warmth and tactile qualities and provides signifiers or messages along the route to confirm the children’s location within the school.
The building is very much a product of an extended and detailed briefing process and has been designed to deal with very specific issues whilst ensuring an architectural quality. It’s a building that is designed not only to assist in the stimulation of the senses, but as an environment that stimulates the imagination. As architect’s gm+ad believe that the building is very responsive to what is ultimately a very challenging brief and this has been achieved by a fully comprehensive and continued dialogue with the client and end users.