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Balwearie High School, Balwearie Gardens, Kirkcaldy

A Category B Listed Building in Kirkcaldy, Fife

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Latitude: 56.1007 / 56°6'2"N

Longitude: -3.1723 / 3°10'20"W

OS Eastings: 327176

OS Northings: 690383

OS Grid: NT271903

Mapcode National: GBR 29.MM7Z

Mapcode Global: WH6RV.7XNJ

Entry Name: Balwearie High School, Balwearie Gardens, Kirkcaldy

Listing Date: 17 April 2014

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 402256

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52202

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Kirkcaldy

County: Fife

Town: Kirkcaldy

Electoral Ward: Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy

Traditional County: Fife

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Fife County Education Architect's Department, 1960-64 (Gavin H McConnell, project architect and lead designer); 1975, extension to N (Gavin McConnell for Fife Regional Council Architectural Services). Late-Modernist, centralised, modular block plan secondary school located on large triangular site to the south of Beveridge Park in Kirkcaldy. Long central block (C Block) with elevated linking corridor to south passing through L (library) Block to join 4 stepped-plan, single storey classroom blocks (J Block). Auditorium block joins C Block by linking corridor to east. Square-plan T Block joins C Block by linking corridor to west. Quality interior finishes and fittings to principal communal areas.

PRINCIPAL CLASSROOM BLOCK (C BLOCK): 4-storey, rectangular-plan on north/south axis. Concrete frame with glazed curtain-walls supported on concrete pilotis at ground floor. Squared and snecked rubble to recessed ground floor section. Modular fenestration pattern punctuated by cut-out infill with concrete and aggregate cement panels between horizontal glazed bands. Large panels at each floor to east and west elevations reflecting internal stair. Pierced parapet to roof. Large drum-shaped classroom and curvilinear observation tower on flat roof. Wave-form motif seating underneath pilotis. Some signage dating to 1960s.

AUDITORIUM BLOCK TO EAST: single storey, square-plan with circular steel columns behind full-height glazed curtain-wall to north and returning to west elevation. Squared and snecked sandstone rubble clad to eastern elevation. 1960s signage to north elevation. Pond to north with concrete wave-form motif.

LIBRARY (L BLOCK) AND STEPPED CLASSROOM BLOCKS (J BLOCK) TO SOUTH: raised linking corridor passing through square-plan library block to stepped-plan arrangement of 4 inter-connected square-plan classroom blocks taking advantage of naturally sloping site. Squared and snecked rubble base. Narrow, square-plan pilotis to recessed exterior walkway to ground. Irregular cut-out fenestration design to upper (classroom) levels.

T BLOCK TO WEST: square-plan, squared and snecked rubble to ground floor/base. Linking corridor to west elevation of C Block.

INTERIOR: quality materials and close attention to design detail throughout principal communal spaces. Entrance hall and foyer; marble floor tiles; double-door partitions. Double-height foyer with raised gallery walkway to two sides; full-height, twisting concrete mullions to large curtain window with asymmetrical colour-blocks; timber panelling. Some cantilevered staircases. Barrel-vaulted ceiling to linking corridor between C Block and Assembly Hall. Assembly Hall: undulating geometric ceiling; full-height timber-panel walls with curved corners to stage end; alternating steps to raised timber control platform to rear with irregular cut-outs; polished brass handrails and fittings; polished parquet flooring. Library: raised timber mezzanine level. Timber doors with glazed margin lights to classrooms. Geometric patterned tiles to all principal corridors.

Statement of Interest

Balwearie High School (1960-64) is among the very best examples of school building of the post-war building period in Scotland, closely following Modernist design principles and marking a clear break from the more formal designs of the inter-war period and 1950s. The design is distinguished by its close attention to architectural detail, making use of Modernist architectural devices including concrete pilotis supporting the main concrete superstructure with its glazed curtain walls. There are elevated walkways and linking corridors; angular projections and glazed cut-outs; roof-top classrooms and a nautical theme running through the design detail, all adding to its period interest. The building uses modern materials throughout to excellent design effect, particularly within the context of the budgetary constraints associated with publically funded school building programmes of the period. The centralised plan and linked blocks are articulated in response to its site and orientation. It is a forerunner to the megastructural approach to architecture that would find increasing favour in 1970s architecture.

More than 50 schools were produced by the Fife County Architect's Department between 1950 and 1970, many under the guidance of lead designer, Gavin McConnell. Other Fife schools recognised for their significant architectural achievement are Kilrymont Madras College St Andrews, 1963 by Ian Stewart, and Inverkeithing High School, 1968 by Gavin McConnell (see separate listings). Together, these schools represent some of the very best collaborative architecture to be produced in Scotland, in the spirit of the ambitious design and building programmes for social housing and New Towns prior to the reorganisation of local government in 1975.

Balwearie was initially a junior secondary school before becoming a comprehensive in 1972, at which time additional classrooms were added by Gavin McConnell to the north end of the central C Block. The centralised plan comprises the C Block spine to centre with T Block to the west, J Block stepped to the south and joining C Block via a linking bridge corridor through the L (library) Block. L Block and C Block have separate cafeterias. The main 3 and 4-storey spine block and its communal spaces are conceived on a large scale, enhanced by the addition of a large drum-shaped classroom and a curvilinear observatory tower on the roof, echoing the form of a ships funnel. Further nautical references include the twisting, sail-like concrete mullions between the large full-height glazed wall to the principal foyer; wave-like exterior seating set between the pilotis, a ships-mast flagpole near the main entrance, and the undulating ceiling and brass handrails in the Assembly Hall. The glazed horizontal elevations of the stepped classrooms of the J Block are interrupted by angled cuts-outs and modulations of subtle complexity. Later alterations are largely sympathetic to the design ethos of the building. The project architect, Gavin McConnell, considers Balwearie to be one of his finest designs.

The early post-war years were a period of transformation with social welfare and education reforms in Scotland and the rest of the UK having a dramatic effect on the development of new architecture for education buildings. The 1945 'Education (Scotland) Act' advocated free education for all and this and other new policies helped re-prioritise a design-led ethos in the provision of schools and other public buildings. The influence of the Modern Movement in architecture was felt particularly strongly during these years in the provision of buildings for education.

Fife became one of the main centres for post-war rehousing in Scotland with investment in the new mining industries and the associated provision of New Towns such as Glenrothes. The increased infrastructural requirement saw Fife County spearhead this forward thinking approach, forming a dedicated Architect's Educational Department, resulting in a huge programme of architecturally-led projects not seen on a similar scale elsewhere in Scotland outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Balwearie High School is situated to the south-west of Kirkcaldy, serving the local community and the towns of Auchtertool, Burntisland and Kinghorn.

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