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Madras College

St Andrews, UK


project overview

Replacement of a split-site secondary school in Scotland

A true embodiment of inclusive design, Madras College promotes equality of opportunity and creates an open environment for all.

Designed for 1,450 pupils, it accommodates ever changing educational needs for both the individual and larger groups. Providing safe and flexible education spaces, it is a major centre of learning for pupils, staff and the wider community.

Sustainable and forward-thinking, whilst reflecting its history, Madras College is a community use school providing an all-round education combined with well-considered landscape design.

It’s an exciting environment to work in, for all of us and will bring together all young people for the first time in one building. The building itself is inspiring and innovative but above all functional and all on one campus which means we can get on with our jobs knowing that we have everything we need to help us to do that.”

Ken Currie

Head Teacher, Madras College

project aims

Evolution of a historic landmark in the community

As a key factor of Fife Council’s ‘Building Fife’s Future’ school investment programme, the design brief stemmed from the poor condition and inflexible layout of the existing school buildings.

Replacing the last remaining split-site secondary school in Scotland, (operating over three separate sites) the new Madras College needed to be fit for 21st century educational needs, promoting lifelong learning.

A true community focal point, embodying the strengths of civic presence, the design fully embraces ‘St Andrews West Strategic Development Area’ (STAW) masterplan. It was equally important that, the ethos and character of the existing Madras College were recognised, embraced and not lost.

Reflecting the historic identity of the former school, the design references three social spaces within the former 1833 South Street building; ‘the Lawn’, ‘the Quad’ and ‘the Courtyard’.

The integrated landscape design provides an inside - outside connection, focusing upon creating a vibrant sense of place and campus-type feel. During the design period, a close relationship was developed with the ‘St Andrews West Strategic Development Area’ masterplan design team. This ensured delivery of a clear connection, between both developments, by the creation of a public realm focal point. This will ultimately connect with the future STAW developments.


Site selection

Prioritising stakeholder engagement from the beginning

At the project’s outset, we engaged in an extensive site selection exercise, bringing stakeholders together, to collectively examine which available site locations, offered the best solution to meet brief requirements.

The ‘Langland’s’ site was chosen for its qualities: to sustain and enrich the curriculum through collaborative learning; a site capable of accommodating a school which would inspire through its environment; the capability for future expansion; creating an education hub with the adjacent University of St Andrew; located within the designated pupil catchment area, fully accessible by foot, bicycle, car and public transport; and a site capable of accommodating all curricular, external learning, sports facilities and community engagement in accordance with Fife Council priorities.

It was important that the proposed new school design was identifiably ‘Madras College’, whilst giving students and staff the very best on offer. Our design uses the site to ensure exceptional standards of space, height and scale for students, staff, and visitors.


Design concept

Excellence in teaching and learning space

A triple height ‘social heart’ provides a focal point for access, interaction, dining and navigation. This is highly visible on approach, demonstrating the school’s open ethos.

Numerous triple height spaces throughout, create a generous sense of space, admitting light and providing visual connections.

The design supports multifunctional use; the dining, social space allows for flexible functionality, from socialising, to large group gathering, to small study groups. The layout also allows for community use, easily divided into three distinct areas, whilst maintaining secure lockdown.

The school’s presence in the community is enhanced by the materials palette. The mix of full height glazing with traditional brick elements provided a strong statement, recognising the stature of Madras College as important public building whilst respectful to place as part of a wider masterplan.

Incorporating space for community use, the social hub opens up to be visible on approach to the building as a clear demonstration of openness and visual link to the wider community. The orientation of the social hub has been designed to provide the best possible relationship between the external landscape and environmental characteristics.

The courtyard to the old South Street building provided a relief to the built-up nature of the school. The new courtyard at the new Madras College, provides a sheltered adaptable breakout area for dining, socialisation and teaching at the school.

The large, central courtyard is the new Quad: a social heart and gathering place for the school. The connection of this ‘Quad’ back to the 1833 Quad is important and the building picks up on the direct connection through the centre of these spaces.

In the summer months, the pupils of the old building would gather on the front lawn, looking over St Andrews town centre. We created an equivalent; a breakout and social space for the pupils to sit with views over St Andrews and coastline.

Landscape Design

Supporting and enhancing the local natural environment

The landscape strategy was divided into three key character areas; trees and low planting, woodland corridors and open grassland. A SUDS area was created as a natural pond with supervised access through steps to a timber jetty. Used as an outstanding educational resource, the natural pond inspires pupils to interact with their local environment and helps to broaden their learning. Areas of native woodland have been planted to reinforce the landscape character of the area, contributing to the existing ecological green corridor.

The design provides fully accessible school grounds, integrating the facility within the University of St Andrews estate. This contributes to a campus-type environment, instead of a fully fenced and enclosed school site. The all-weather sports pitches can be used by both pupils, community groups and the university. A reciprocal arrangement exists with specific parts of the university pitches.

A selection of spaces are for sole use of the pupils, catering for their specific needs and the delivery of the school’s education curriculum.

A prominent arrival space for those arriving by car, bus, foot or bicycle is created through a public realm axis at the front of the site. The frontage public realm connects the existing university sports facilities and main path to the east, with the proposed STAW masterplan located to the west.

Its function not only enables people to move easily through the space, but acts as a designed landscape for pupil and community socialising. Socialising is also heightened through the green ‘islands’ and various seating options which are dotted across the site. Helping to create a vibrant sense of place and reflect a campus type feel.

landscape design

A well considered landscape design creating a vibrant sense of place


Green 'islands'

Green islands and social spaces enable meaningful engagement between pupils and people in the community.

Connecting to nature

The natural pond enables pupils to embrace their surroundings, connect with nature and boost their learning.

Embracing outdoor learning

Spaces which have been created for 21st century educational needs.

Forging a connection between pupils and teachers

Helping pupils to forge meaningful connections with their peers and the surrounding area.

A place to socialise

A variety of seating options reinforces a campus type feel.

A vibrant sense of place

Large, open space which moves away from the idea of an enclosed school site.

Broadening the curriculum

Inspiring pupils to learn more about wildlife.


Optimal energy performance and connectivity

Madras has achieved a ‘Platinum Standard’ sustainability level, measured against Fife Council’s own ‘Sustainability Checklist. This exceeds BREEAM standards. Madras incorporates robust sustainability procurement, design, construction and in-use practices to deliver a building with optimal energy performance and connectivity. This environmental strategy provides students with a learning tool to understand key principles of environmental and structural design in architecture.

key information

Project summary


St Andrews, KY16 9BY


Fife Council






15,320 m2


Fife Council’s ‘Platinum Standard’


1,450 pupil spaces
Sports facilities


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