Design for new International School by Craig Heap

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Holmes Miller has been working with Merchiston Castle School over the course of the last 12 months, developing conceptual designs for a new International School that would see the renowned Edinburgh school established in Shenzhen, China. Holmes Miller has a long standing relationship with the school, having developed a masterplan and new building designs for their Colinton Campus over the past decade. Through our network of offices in Glasgow, London and Guangzhou however, we have been able to offer a tailored architectural service, developing the brief with our client in Edinburgh, meeting with the wider educational team in London, and facilitating design workshops and contractor meetings in China.

The design proposed, utilises an existing further education building in the rapidly developing city of Shenzhen, regenerating the redundant building to provide a state-of-the-art teaching facility that will cater for both primary and secondary age pupils. The school will provide education for both international and Chinese national students, offering a British education within a building designed to reflect both the ethos of Merchiston Castle School and the principals of a UK designed school.

Further buildings are suitably refurbished within the new campus, to provide boarding accommodation for 600 students, with ensuite bed spaces, common rooms, kitchen and dining areas and recreation space. The site is further enhanced through the provision of a new swimming pool pavilion, that will offer a 25m pool and associated changing areas. The roof of this new building will be landscaped and will connect to all of the buildings on site through elevated walkways. This allows pupils the opportunity to relax and socialise within tranquil surroundings , whilst segregating pupil and vehicular movement around the site.

The design is being led by Holmes Miller's Education Director, Mark Ellson, who has coordinated dedicated staff in both our Glasgow and Guanzghou offices to develop and communicate the key principals of the concept design. With the project now moving into Construction Phase, Mark will continue to support the school, offering design support as the project prepares for the official opening, scheduled for September 2018.

Article in today's Herald

Assisted living at Prestwick by Craig Heap


We are delighted to have secured Planning Approval for the McCarthy & Stone assisted living development at Links Road Prestwick on 16 November 2017.  The four storey building contains 69 independent living flats with common facilities including dining and kitchen.  

Douglas Jack, our Residential Lead, said "This is a fabulous site with views west across the Firth of Clyde with the silhouette of Arran in the background, and north and east to the beautiful Prestwick golf course.  We have designed an outward facing bookend to the Prestwick seafront, with generous windows and balconies opening to both views.  Great to see the planning permission granted."

Important milestone for York Community Stadium by Craig Heap

Construction is due to start on the Holmes Miller designed York Community Stadium and Leisure Complex before Christmas 2017, with all facilities operational in 2019.

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The complex, is an exciting public and private funded mixed-use destination for York. This unique joint development will provide a new 8,000 capacity home for York City Football Club and York City Knights RLFC. It will also offer a swimming pool, fitness and active play facilities, as well as a new community hub focused on providing health and wellbeing services for York residents and visitors. This landmark destination will provide a mix of community and commercial leisure uses for the city and beyond, which exceeds the Council’s original expectations.

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Alan Cadger, Director at Holmes Miller  “From a sporting perspective we hope once complete, the Community Stadium will become a ‘fortress’ for football and rugby and encourages both teams to more success. From a wider perspective we hope the City’s aspirations are met in terms of community use. Architecturally we hope the built environment inspires future generations to be involved in sport and leisure”.

The leisure complex will provide a 25-metre swimming pool complemented by a separate teaching pool and fun pool. The scheme will also provide a new sports hall facility with spectator viewing, a new fitness gym with dance and spin studios and an extreme adventure sports zone, all under the same roof. There will also be 3G pitches at the site.

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The community hub will provide bespoke facilities for longstanding partners to the project, including the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and York Libraries.

The commercial element, acting as gateway to the overall development, will deliver 35,000ft2 retail, 17,000ft2 restaurant and 13 screen cinema adjacent to the recently open Vangarde Shopping Park.

Planning Approval for Menzieshill Community Centre by Craig Heap


Our new Menzieshill Community Centre for Dundee City Council has received planning approval.

This exciting community project, the second phase of a wider Menzieshill masterplan developed by Holmes Miller, is being procured through the SCAPE Framework and will be delivered by Robertson Construction Tayside.

HM Lunch Club : Halloween by Craig Heap

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Our recent Lunch Club in aid of our chosen charity, The Paul O'Gorman Leukaemia Research centre, served up a ghostly feast.

Who knew you could carve so many facial expressions on a pepper!

MD Blog : An update from the Far East by Craig Heap

Our Managing Director, Callum Houston, was in contemplative mood whilst travelling back from China and jotted down some thoughts :

The frequency and ever shortening gaps between my trips to the Far East over the course of 2017 is hopefully a testament to the time and effort invested in our Chinese odyssey over the past seven years or more.

From the early days of working remotely, and travelling when required, until late 2015 when we took the ambitious step of opening an office in Guangzhou, the path has never been easy. 


However, in this recent visit I couldn’t help but notice that in the last 2 years we have gone from 5 staff, working in a less than ideal environment, to 16 staff in our own purposely designed modern office space. Slightly worrying is the fact that every desk space now appears to be occupied and with increasing pressure on Projects and Bids, a demand for more seats and staff will not be far away.

From the outset we recognised that to be taken seriously and position ourselves in the market place we would need to grow to about 50 staff within 5 years. We always planned for growth, and have capacity to do so, but it still remains both exciting and daunting in equal measures.

With every passing visit I can’t help but be enthused by the positivity and strength of the team we have established in our Guangzhou Office. A truly international team composed of talented individuals from Mexico, Poland, South Africa and Turkey, not to mention a few Chinese and Scots thrown in for good measure. 

It must be said, international and young. I don’t think of myself as old (nearer 40 than 50) but clearly I have reached a watershed moment in my time with Holmes Miller. Always happy to partake in a beer at the end of a hard day, I was rocked when our most recent Intern took great glee in the discovery that he was not even born when I started as a fresh faced architectural assistant back in 1994.

As a practice we strive to establish a friendly, relaxed and open culture so it is great to see that this has been maintained in the 9000 mile separation between Glasgow and Guangzhou. Hopefully this trend will be continued in our new London Office opening in late 2017.

Anyway, the main purpose of this most recent visit was to support the team in our submission and presentation for a new Education led project in Zhuhai.

Zhuhai is one of China’s first special economic zones in the southwest of the Pearl River estuary in Guangdong Province, with Hong Kong to the east and Macao to the south.

As one of the UK’s largest education architects, having designed and delivered new facilities for more than 45,000 pupils, I was delighted that we were getting the opportunity to take our experiences in this sector to China.


When I was handed a brief for a 900 place Kindergarden School (27,000m2) and a 1800 place Primary School (36,000m2), not to mention a community centre and bus exchange thrown in for good measure, you can't help but draw breath at the scale. I don’t suppose I should be surprised any more as, with a population of 1.3 billion people, the one constant is the scale of projects in China. However, coming from an environment that focuses all of our time on meeting prescriptive Building Bulletins, EFA and SFT guidelines, I can’t help but doing a quick number crunch in my head to work out the area per pupil.

I am not trying to raise political debate about the merits or otherwise of the different approaches to educational delivery.  In many ways they are very similar. What I am more interested in, is the subtle differences and opportunities to learn from this process.

I think the most striking insight was at Kindergarden stage (ages 3-6 )where there appears a more regimented teaching agenda. There is still a strong emphasis on flexibility and providing linkage between interior and external spaces, but in the main, the space is broken down into cellular classrooms with adjacent sleeping areas,  each for 30 children. Strikingly the brief also includes specialist STEM teaching area, highlighting the importance placed on these key curriculum areas from a very early age.

Placing differences to one side, when it comes down to it, it is still our role as designers to optimise building user experience and create the best environment that is conducive to learn and teach in.


Having just completed the presentation to an expectant client group, one of four shortlisted practices from the original nine who had submitted bids the previous day (including a 1:300 physical model and 12 CGI’s) I depart with optimism (blind or otherwise) that we may see our education portfolio expand to include the delivery of a sensitively designed ‘Goliath’.

Homeward bound now, but not before the usual panic to see whether I could extend my trip by a couple of days to help with another client presentation, this time for a 100 metre tall Office Development.  Couldn’t sort out the logistics this time, but I travel in the knowledge that I’ve got at least one more trip in me between now and the end of the year.  At least I’ll get the chance to see, China does Christmas!

Callum Houston
Holmes Miller
Managing Director

Dalbeattie Learning Campus handed over by Craig Heap


After 4 years of hard work, Holmes Miller was delighted to see the new Dalbeattie Learning Campus handed over to Dumfries & Galloway Council last Friday 27 October.

Well done to everyone involved in creating this exciting new education and community facility.

HM Lunch Club : Decade of Choice by Craig Heap

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This week's Lunch Club in aid of our chosen charity, The Paul O'Gorman Leukaemia Research Centre, served up a Super 70's Taste Sensation with a musical theme accompanied by some appropriately retro computer games!

A classic cheese and onion hedgehog took centre stage!


St John's Primary School 'sod cutting' by Craig Heap


Holmes Miller is delighted to see work is now well underway at the new St John's Primary School for The City of Edinburgh Council after the 'sod cutting' attended by staff and pupils of the existing school and the Education Convener, Councillor Ian Perry.

Munro Challenge | Thank You by Ryan Holmes

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Taking advantage of the wonderful weather on Friday the Holmes Miller team exceeded our challenge of bagging '24 Munro's in 24 Hours'.  Due to a bit of over zealousness or poor map reading (not sure which) we actually managed to stand on top of the following 25 Munros:

  • Ben Vorlich
  • Stuc Chroin
  • Gael-charn
  • A'Mharconaich
  • Carn an Tuirc
  • Cairn of Claise
  • Glas Maol
  • Creag Leacach
  • Ben Vane
  • Beinn Udlamain
  • Sgairneach Mhor
  • Ben Lomond
  • Carn Aosda
  • Carn nan Sac
  • Carn a' Ghoidh
  • The Cairnwell
  • Beinn Ghlas
  • Ben Lawers
  • An Casteal
  • Beinn a'Chroin
  • Beinn Dorain
  • Beinn an Dothaidh
  • Bidean na Bian
  • Stob Coire Sgreamach
  • Ben Chonzie

For many in the office this was the first time they have ventured out into the Scottish Mountains, let alone bag a Munro or 2 or 3. The weather and stunning views from all peaks made this a truly memorable experience and one that will hopefully have encouraged a few staff to take up a new hobby.

Our thanks go out to the generosity of our clients, colleagues, family and friends who have supported the challenge through their kind donations.

If anyone still wishes to make a donation please do so on the following JustGiving link to support the Paul O'Gorman Leukaemia Research Centre in Glasgow (via the University of Glasgow Trust), Holmes Miller selected Charity for 2017.


Residents move in to competition winning design by Craig Heap


New build housing development at Fencedyke consisting of 34 units built on a brownfield site for North Ayrshire Council officially opened by local Councillor.

The development features a mix of terrace blocks / detached properties comprising 2 storey units for mainstream tenants and single storey properties for ambulant disabled/ wheelchair users, all built in accordance with the Housing for Varying Needs guidelines.

The properties meet the Scottish governments greener homes standard / Building Regulations “Silver Standard” in respect of Carbon Emmissions and energy use due to the thermally efficient fabric and inclusion of sustainable features such as solar pv.

The project is also due to achieve an Ecohomes “very good” rating.

Contractor – Cruden
Engineer – Harley Haddow