Loader Monteith and Studio SJM create woodland school in Scotland

Scottish practices Loader Monteith and Studio SJM have completed The Harmeny Learning Hub outside Edinburgh, which is clad in larch to blend in with its woodland surroundings.

The teaching space is located on the 35-acre estate of the charity Harmeny Education Trust, which provides specialist education for children who have experienced severe trauma.

Loader Monteith and Studio SJM won a competition to design it with their proposal to “embrace the students and the landscape” with a low-slung, L-shaped building that hugs the site’s trees.

Exterior view of teaching space in ScotlandExterior view of teaching space in Scotland
Loader Monteith and Studio SJM have completed a learning centre in Scotland

“Sited between two Category-A listed buildings and within a dense, mature woodland, the learning centre is rooted firmly in the principle of wellbeing,” explained the studios.

“At the very core of the project is a desire to provide a safe place in which the children can explore, discover and reflect on their experiences in order to heal and develop skills that will support them into and throughout their adult life.”

The Harmeny Learning Hub comprises two buildings set atop a paved patio. To the north, the classrooms, meditation spaces and two art workshops are housed in the main timber-framed, larch-clad structure that will silver over time to “camouflage” with the trees.

Close up of The Harmeny Learning Hub exteriorClose up of The Harmeny Learning Hub exterior
The learning hub comprises two buildings

Perpendicular to this is a slightly smaller brick-clad volume, containing further teaching spaces and workshops along with offices and a reception area.

These two blocks are linked by paved walkways that wrap around and between them, dotted with areas of planting.

The Harmeny Learning Hub by Loader Monteith and Studio SJMThe Harmeny Learning Hub by Loader Monteith and Studio SJM
One of the two buildings is clad in larch

“This crucial access to nature – readily available from all rooms – offers students a diverse set of spaces to engage with their education and importantly, places of respite should activities become overwhelming,” explained the studios.

“High-level windows and sections of overhead glazing offer a constant, relaxing visual connection to the outdoors.”

The interiors of The Harmeny Learning Hub, designed by Studio SJM, prioritise both views of and access to the surrounding natural landscape.

In the classrooms, large skylights and glazed doors open onto the external patio, while the fittings and finishes have been kept deliberately simple with a neutral palette of pastel colours.

Classroom space within educational facility by Loader Monteith and Studio SJMClassroom space within educational facility by Loader Monteith and Studio SJM
Large skylights and glazed doors feature within the classrooms

“Thresholds were carefully considered to offer a sense of welcome and create an informal, safe atmosphere from first entry,” said the studios.

“The vocational spaces have been designed to mimic workshop or creative environments to familiarise the students with potential types of future workplaces,” they added.

Classroom interior at The Harmeny Learning Hub in ScotlandClassroom interior at The Harmeny Learning Hub in Scotland
A neutral palette was used for the interior

Loader Monteith is an architecture practice based in Scotland founded in 2016 by Matt Loader and Iain Monteith, and Studio SJM was established by Sarah Jane Storrie and Marianne Partyka in 2020.

Previous projects by Loader Monteith include an office for a bike tour operator in Inverness and an “invisible” restoration of Peter Womersley’s High Sunderland house.

The photography is by Jim Stephenson.

Project credits:

Architects: Loader Monteith and Studio SJM
Client: Harmeny Education Trust
Main contractor: Thomas Johnstone
Project management: Faithful & Gould
Landscape architect: Wardell Armstrong
Structural engineer: Harley Haddow
M&E consultant: Harley Haddow
CDM coordinator: Principal CDM

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