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Gelliswick Church in Wales VC School


As a part of the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools Programme, Lawray were appointed to design Pembrokeshire County Council’s largest primary school to date.

The Brief

In 2013 Lawray were commissioned by Pembrokeshire County Council to provide architectural design services up to RIBA Stage 3. This brief referred to a new primary school for approximately 420 pupils aged between 4-11 years, including an early years unit for 60 pupils and a County Complex Needs Unit (Learning Resource Centre) for approximately 30 pupils. The brief also included the amalgamation of two existing school sites, created with the incentive of building an all-through English primary school, all on one site in the Hakin area of Milford Haven.

The brief also addressed the following objectives summarised below:

  • An environmentally sustainable school achieving 21st Century Schools requirements. Achieving a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.
  • A footprint that was both adaptable and flexible in its design, ensuring that any future changes to the curriculum could be delivered.
  • The design needed to cater to the community values. Prior to the build, the schools focused on the importance of supporting families and their learning needs. The design needed to improve/foster significant community access.
  • A key educational requirement, related to the provision of facilities for additional learning needs.

External areas were adapted to the school’s holistic learning style, using both indoor and outdoor spaces as facilities for learning. This included the development of sporting facilities, social and secure play areas as well as landscaping and onsite car parking. Additionally, equality of access was imperative to the client with the co-location of the County Complex Needs Units. This required great attention to detail and planning.

Our Solution

Our success was based on meeting the criteria of the client and overcoming all concerns and queries.

The greatest challenge which presented itself was the awkward varying levels of topography. The long and narrow site included a severe crossfall, which was solved by the creation of split levels. These split levels offered differing play areas and integrated controlled circulation routes. These were designed to visually enhance the aesthetic appearance of the school, whilst also remaining cost effective.

Brick and timber cladding was utilised with various glazing systems in key visual areas, creating a proportioned, modern approach with a palette of durable materials.

The formation of both two storey and single storey buildings allowed for semi-private play spaces for the early and foundation years. The covered play areas and informal recreation courtyards deliver distinctive external spaces, ensuring that the importance of community was still intertwined with the school’s ethos and identity.

Lawray are an organisation which is committed to delivery without exception to quality. They are a well organised team with an excellent record in dealing with all levels of client in a complex organisation. Impressive design outcomes and a ‘can do’ attitude only provide benefit to projects they have been involved with. I would have no hesitation in recommending Lawray to any organisation.

Mike Ellery, Velindre