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Port Glasgow Community Campus by Archial NORR

Class of 2014: Port Glasgow Community Campus, Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, by Archial NORR

The Port Glasgow Community Campus in Inverclyde is the largest and most complex school project we have designed to date. It comprises a denominational and non-denominational secondary schools, a large special needs school, an enterprise centre and supporting community sports facilities, all grouped together on an exposed hilltop site.

The procurement process was unusual, but not uncommon in Scotland. The client, Inverclyde Council, firstly published an OJEU notice seeking an architect-led design team in late 2009, from which it selected a shortlist of six. Following a conceptual design competition, fee proposal and two competitive interviews, we were awarded the project in March 2010. The project was developed to Stage D+ before novation of the design team to the main contractor, in July 2011. This approach, and the time associated with it, allowed the client, end users and design team to have a meaningful and genuinely collaborative relationship during the development of the design.

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The process, complexity of the programme and the peripheral nature of the site led to a diverse building form, which seeks to provide generous natural light, successfully manipulated scale and highly effective natural ventilation throughout. In so doing, the project also seeks to become a genuine catalyst for the further regeneration of its immediate area. At over 19m2 per pupil, the diversity of form is complemented by a generosity of space compared to Scottish Futures Trust or Education Funding Agency area guidelines, although the presence of the specialist facilities clearly has a significant impact on this figure. The sheer scale of the project, however, and the prevailing market conditions at the time of tender led to a construction cost of £1,727 per square metre.

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Dominated by the large volume of the social/dining area, the egalitarian symmetry of the front of the plan slowly gives way to a more relaxed arrangement driven by context and function. All routes emanate from this centrally located area, bringing enhanced legibility to what is a very large building. Circulation zones are punctuated by views across, through and between naturally lit spaces, using galleries, pods and staircases to enliven the experience; while the plan arrangement also encourages inclusivity and equality between all the varied functions in the project.

This building is a product of a particular time and set of circumstances. The highly testing economic context of public sector procurement is now quite different and the challenge is to provide this same richness of space and diversity of form in a simpler, more efficient, yet interesting way.

Kevin Cooper, director, Archial NORR

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