Hazelwood School

Hazelwood School in Glasgow, Scotland by Gordon Murray + Alan Dunlop Architects

The Hazelwood School for the Sensory Impaired combines two of Glasgow's special needs schools into one, in a facility catered to "children aged from 4 to 18 with severe visual, mobility and sensory impairment." Gordon Murray + Alan Dunlop Architects approached the design by holding workshops, meetings, and seminars with the two client groups. The result is a building that successfully caters to those special needs, while also stimulating the children through their experience of the spaces.

At first glance the project is reminiscent of Stanley Tigerman's Illinois Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (now a bank) in Chicago, where an undulating window and adjacent desk allow the users to move through the space via the sense of touch, rather than the predominant sense of vision. It's an appropriate gesture in Chicago and in Glasgow, where it is found in the whole plan, curling across the site to allow for a stronger sense of movement and memory.

The sinuous plan not only creates strong internal circulation, it also creates outdoor rooms. Given the mobility concerns of such an architectural program, the prospect of crossing streets or a parking lot to reach an outdoor play area is highly impractical. By cradling outdoor spaces via the plan's bends the adjacency of the two realms is immediate. Additionally the external environment is always perceived indoors, be it through the windows and clerestories in the classrooms or the natural ventilation of the single-loaded corridor.

The main circulation along the length of the plan illustrates the design considerations supplied by the architects. These include the small-scale gesture of the zig-zagging wood walls, the waist-level contours in these walls, and the textures of the floors, including the placement of the HVAC grilles for additional aid in movement. Of course, one need not think that these sorts of considerations are limited to those with special needs. It is important for architects to constantly think about the all the senses and ways people interact with their architecture; ideally architects make such an experience richer.