Millbay Academy
In Brief

Kier Construction


Construction value:

March 2015

Millbay Academy, formerly Plymouth School of Creative Arts, and affectionately known as The Red House, is a place to develop the richness and individuality of human creativity. This all-through school, located on an inner-city brownfield site and sponsored by Plymouth College of Art, allows 4-16 year olds to connect with a local artistic tradition going back to 1845. Through making, performing and discovering, the school pursues its core intention of ‘Creating Individuals and Making Futures’.

This ambition for a creative educational habitat requires a departure from conventional teaching methods and spaces; it requires an entirely new ecology. Industrial in character and varying in height, plan, light and scale, the school’s design stimulates and charges the teaching environment. It is a place for making things - making ideas, making technology and making art.

The Red House
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Looking through the eyes of children and staff, this film captures both the philosophy behind the design and the everyday life of the School.

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The school's values guided the design of this building. There is no 'art room', art is made everywhere.

Building good schools is more than an architectural challenge; it’s also a societal, political and educational challenge. The Red House embraces some unconventional teaching methods where knowledge and creativity is encouraged to flow between teachers and peers.

The school’s values guided the design of this building and we reciprocated by putting those values on show with three interlocking spaces to create clarity, legibility and a unique teaching atmosphere. This school is a new prototype for creative learning. It’s a building of the arts, a gateway to Plymouth, and a new heart for the local community.

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The school was procured under the government's Free School programme, together with the English Cities Fund who owned the site, and is sponsored by Plymouth College of Art. The budget for this school was at an all-time low and required a very creative approach to the interior and exterior to respond to the very high aspirations set by the client, the site owner and Plymouth City Council.

Intensely committed input from the whole team supported a remarkable outcome: school architecture for children aged 4 to 16 built for £1,450/sqm – two thirds the figure for typical Building Schools for the Future.

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"This is a complex and challenging project made to look effortless in practice... and the architects' success in delivering a great project on an extraordinarily constrained budget and programme is recognised and applauded by the jury."
RIBA South West Award 2016 Judges comments
"The shortlisting of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios is wholly deserved and it has been a privilege to work with them. They have the spatial intelligence to understand and optimise the design of a specialist studio learning environment...
"... They understand that it is energy that creates space and not space that contains energy, and the Red House is thus unlike any school that I, or indeed the Ofsted inspectors, who visited last summer, have seen before."
Professor Andrew Brewerton Principal of Plymouth College of Art and Chair of Governors at Plymouth School of Creative Arts
The scheme is set on a brownfield site, formerly an industrial area, redundant and derelict for many years.

This school is not only a responsible re-use of urban inner-city land, sparing of green field alternatives, but a mark of confident renewal in the emerging community of the Millbay area.

The 6,920sqm building contains functionally specific zones, such as its theatre, teaching kitchen, labs, dance studio and music rooms. Large scale classroom spaces are designed around the philosophy of team teaching with 3 teachers and 75 children sharing sub divisible-spaces. There are sports facilities and dining areas which are available to the community out of hours.

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The building uses robust, long life materials and harnesses renewable energy. Onsite renewable technologies include a 250sqm PV array system installed on the roof, resulting in a 17% reduction against predicted carbon emissions of the building. Its U-Values were increased to better its passive performance beyond building regulations. There is excellent quality of natural light, while all light fittings are low energy with daylight controls and absence detection. Ventilation is tailored to the variable site conditions and administered by an intelligent BMS. Combinations of mechanical, natural and locally operable systems moderate the environment. 

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"Given the tight timescales and limited budgets for the project, that we now have such a stunning space reflects the skills and expertise of all involved."
David Strudwick Headmaster
"Personally, I'm proud of our school. We will always be grateful to Feilden Clegg Bradley and Kier for their vision, insight, graft and teamwork to make our children, staff, parents and community proud to be here."
David Strudwick Headmaster
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The school has had a cohesive effect on the local community offering adult education, lessons in enterprise, food & health.  It is a place for the community to meet, use sports facilities, learn to dance, and be together and thus is sustainable for the environment, the economy and the community.

The internal spaces are adaptable and can be colonised and repurposed when the need arises and landscaping and planting have been implemented for education and biodiversity. Best of all, it has its own roof top apiary with a bee cam!

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2016 AJ100: Client of the Year

2016 RIBA South West Award

2016 RIBA South West Project Architect of the Year  

2015 Civic Trust Awards: Regional Finalist

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Kier Construction
Landscape Architects:
Rathbone Partnership
Structural Engineer:
Jubb Consulting Engineers
M & E Engineer:
Cost Consultant:
Acoustic Engineers:
Kier Construction

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