Rockwood Academy, 2012

transformation of Birmingham school

Rockwood Academy, formerly Park View School, in Birmingham was a collage of buildings dating from the 1960s onwards, most of which were in poor condition and suffered a variety of problems including bad connections, overcrowded corridors and a lack of daylight. It’s transformation, as part of the Birmingham Building Schools for the Future programme, demonstrates how a first class learning environment can be created within a tight budget, through creative reuse, remodelling and low-cost interventions.

A larch clad covered walkway leads from the main entrance into the heart of the school’s campus and encloses three sides of a previously under-utilised courtyard. Visually uniting the disparate buildings and external spaces, the walkways give coherence to the school by establishing a clear hierarchy of routes, improving orientation and bringing focus back onto the sheltered central courtyard, a shared amenity that can be used to meet, reflect, study and dine.

A new full-size, timber-lined sports hall is flooded with natural light from the tall translucent band of clerestory polycarbonate that runs around all four sides. Above the changing rooms a ‘market place’ has been created in collaboration with the artist Catherine Greig. A series of shops along the circulation route linking the courtyard to the playground, provide space for enterprising students to set up small businesses selling produce to their peers during school breaks.

Internally, the narrow corridors have been broken up to enable the circulation areas to expand, creating breakout areas to provide informal learning spaces, reduce congestion, increase passive supervision and allow daylight into the space. All classrooms have been re-configured to aid modern teaching techniques with new services coordinated throughout.

The new interventions create a strong identity for the school, distinct from the existing fabric, yet carefully integrated to unify the whole campus. The choice of timber is multi-layered: it provides an attractive, robust, maintenance free enclosure, and its organic nature contrasts with the tough urbanity of the surrounding buildings, softening the existing campus to create a sheltered collegiate atmosphere.

“Features such as the magnificent 4-court sports hall, the panoramic quad area and the striking and original external walkways have impressed visitors and delighted staff and pupils” Hardeep Saini, former Principal





structural engineer

nolan associates

services engineer

hulley & kirkwood ltd

quantity surveyor

wood & weir ltd

landscape architect


picture credits

richard haughton, ioana marinescu

Behind the scenes