Work begins on £3.1m learning centre on the outskirts of Edinburgh

THOMAS Johnstone Ltd has broken ground on the new learning centre at Harmeny Education Trust’s 35-acre estate.

Designed by Loader Monteith with Studio SJM Architects, the charity’s estate is located just south of Edinburgh in Balerno and provides education, care, and therapeutic support to young people with complex additional support needs due to early years trauma and adversity.

Previously, the charity cared for children up to 14-years-old. However, the new care centre facilitates a technology, arts, and design programme for students aged 14-18 – expanding the capacity of the charity to empower children to reach their full potential.

The new 500 square metre Harmeny Learning Hub sits at the heart of a woodland site opposite the existing category B-listed 1800’s Harmeny House, and replaces an outdoor learning facility unusable in the winter months due to ‘poor construction and condition’. 

The building is conceived by Loader Monteith as an act of ‘embrace’, supporting the development of both students and staff alike and enhancing their relationship with the landscape. In response to the mature trees retained on site, The Learning Hub follows an L-shape plan creating a protected courtyard to support outdoor learning.

Other vocational learning spaces include a bicycle repair workshop, woodwork and art rooms, and multi-functional break out spaces to encourage hands-on learning. All spaces connect to the woodland, allowing children to explore, discover and learn at their own pace in uplifting and accessible environments.  

The hub is said to embody Loader Monteith’s focus on creating low carbon architecture that supports wellbeing. The building features timber frame construction and will be highly insulated to reduce heat loss, supported by a building management system.

A timber colonnade will provide solar shading and facilitate a ‘passive’ ventilation strategy, allowing the building to connect closely with its woodland surroundings while minimising energy in use. 

The £3.1 million project is funded by donations to Harmeny’s ongoing Learning for Life Appeal, which has raised over £2.5 million to date. The Harmeny project is expected to complete in Summer 2023.

Iain Monteith, director of Loader Monteith, said, “The Harmeny Learning Hub is our first education project, and we feel very privileged to contribute to an impactful and vital organisation such as Harmeny Education Trust along with our design partners, Studio SJM Architects. This is a chance for us as a team to provide an uplifting and functional piece of architecture which will shape lives for the better and provide a positive influence throughout the children’s formative years.”