Extension to Happyhansel Primary School

Malcolmson Architects

Happyhansel Primary School is located in the heart of Walls on the West Side of Shetland to the south of the Loch of Kirkigarth. It is accessed off the main A971 via an access road which it shares with the community owned swimming pool.

The current school was built in the 1980's has a steady role of 40 pupils which are split into two composite classes staffed by a shared Head Teacher and two full time class teachers plus one part time nursery teacher.

Teaching methods change over the years and buildings have to adapt to suit. Many of the existing spaces were not ideal for running a modern, efficient Primary School. The library was contained in an external portacabin. Visiting tutors and services such as speech therapy competed for rooms and there was very little in the way of open social space for both teaching, peer learning and for break times during wet weather. The current arrangement also dictated that the head teacher shared an office with the school secretary. Conditions were very cramped and sensitive and confidential conversations are very difficult.

The new extension contains the offices for the secretary and Head Teacher, the library and the teaching space for visiting tutor. These spaces are built around a new covered entrance lobby with a glazed roof which both lets light into the existing canteen and the new cloakroom area and acts as a covered waiting area for parents. The cloakroom also gives access to the southern playground.

Underneath the simple pitched corrugated metal roof (which matches the existing roof) the individual rooms within the extension are expressed externally by stepping the walls. This creates sheltered external spaces for play and meeting and, combined with the curved drystane dyke of the garden area, creates a welcoming entrance to the school.

Internally to integrate the feeling of the spaces with the existing school the public areas and larger rooms such as the library and teaching spaces express the pitched roof internally. Bright, warm colours are used on the walls to create a vibrant internal space. The windows and painted external weatherboarding is kept neutral in colour and returns into the reception area bringing the outside inside. The bright colours of the interior are than allowed to spill outside picking out doors, windows and columns and giving a hint of what is to come.


Happyhansel Primary School
United Kingdom




Shetland Islands Council






  • Education