Plymouth School of Creative Arts - The Red House exterior

Plymouth School of Creative Arts shortlisted for RIBA architectural award

The Red House, home to Plymouth School of Creative Arts, has been shortlisted for a prestigious RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) South West regional award. For over 50 years the RIBA awards have championed the best architecture in the UK and around the world.

Plymouth School of Creative Arts was founded by Plymouth College of Art in 2013 and designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, a group renowned for their inspirational arts and education architectural designs, which include art universities, galleries and exhibition spaces such as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

The Red House was designed as a site for pedagogical innovation in creative learning and as a catalyst for community regeneration in Plymouth’s Millbay docklands, an area which includes amongst the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods in the country.

The school supports the transformation of individual life chances for students and has had an immediate impact on local families, with a range of community groups using the building during evenings and weekends.

Andy Theobald, studio leader at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, said: “We are delighted that Plymouth School of Creative Arts has been shortlisted for a regional RIBA award. It is fantastic to see how the building has made such a big impact on the community and that the school has been named as a symbol of regeneration in the area.

“Having embraced Andrew Brewerton’s vision for a ‘continuum of arts education’ in the city and working closely alongside Dave Strudwick, the head teacher, this was a remarkable opportunity to develop a unique school environment to support, enable and inspire creative education at primary and secondary school level in Plymouth.

“A building that can be a series of studios, an art gallery or a number of making workshops instead of a series of traditional classrooms was a fascinating challenge for FCBS.

“Through responding to a very restricted budget, an open plan building emerged with a deep plan illuminated by dramatic light wells cut through the floor plates – a building for a through school that both unifies but makes particular places for the different age groups.

Drawing Studio at Plymouth College of Art
Drawing Studio at Plymouth College of Art

“This unification is reinforced by the industrial yet refined metal clad envelope in Chilli Red and made sculptural through cuts and cranks in its volume. Standing as a gateway into Plymouth from the ferry port, it has already become the symbol of regeneration and the new social focus of the community in Millbay.

“If only all cities were fortunate enough to have such a school! At a time when arts education funding is dropping significantly it is very rewarding to see how successful the Plymouth School of the Creative Arts has already been and we wish them every success in the future.”

Plymouth School of Creative Arts is a mainstream city centre 4–16 all-through Free School that, together with the college, is establishing a progressive continuum of creative learning and practice from age four to Masters level study and beyond, into professional employment within the creative and cultural industries. Children and staff learn through making in all subject areas, across a broad and balanced school curriculum.

Last October, Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate formally opened the Red House proclaiming it, “a historic moment for education in this country”, and applauded those involved in the project, “I want to congratulate Andrew, Dave and the governors of Plymouth College of Art for having the vision and strength to persuade the world that you can make a school that is rooted in imagination, creativity and the arts, and produce students who will be able to face the 21st century and who will bring to it a whole new way of looking at the world.”

Dave Strudwick, headmaster at Plymouth School of Creative Arts, said: “As a school we wanted a building that would provide spaces that were agile, and studios rather than classrooms, provoking staff to work in new ways.

“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. The transparency of the space mirrors our culture, helping people to feel supported and raising aspirations.

“The Red House is now the first thing visitors to the South West see when coming off the ferry and it feels like the city is on the front foot.”

Craft Design and Fabrication Workshops - Plymouth College of Art
Craft Design and Fabrication Workshops – Plymouth College of Art

Professor Andrew Brewerton, principal of Plymouth College of Art and chair of Governors at Plymouth School of Creative Arts, said: “The shortlisting of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios is wholly deserved and it has been a privilege to work with them.

“They have the spacial intelligence to understand and optimise the design of a specialist studio learning environment, which is required to support our pedagogical ethos and approach to creative learning in all subjects.

“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.”

The college’s Craft, Design and Fabrication Workshops were designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios. The building, which houses state-of-the-art facilities including Jewellery studios, Printed Textile Design workshop spaces, Glass-blowing house, Ceramics space, FabLab and specialist drawing studio, joins Arts University Bournemouth’s stand-alone drawing studio as one of the most significant drawing spaces custom-built at an arts college in the UK in the past 100 years.

The drawing studio, which opened in 2014, is known to some in the college as the Drawing Cathedral. Set in a triple-height, north light 5,500 square foot space, the studio could fit 33 double-decker buses with room to spare.

The drawing studio is also open-plan, so that all students within the BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing and Printmaking programme based there experience a free-flowing dynamic without disciplinary walls to separate the printmaking, painting or drawing areas. Doctorate level staff, all of which are established and practicing artists, share workspace with students, which encourages constant dialogue and a synthesis of ideas between different specialisms and levels of experience.

As well as individual studio space for students, designed to promote a studio culture among artists, other facilities within the drawing studio include a ‘methods and process’ area, to experiment with different painting and paint-making techniques.

Encaustic painting, tempera painting, oil painting, casein painting and distemper painting or some of the methods taught in this space. Hybrid processes that mix traditional and digital techniques are also developed here. The drawing studio is one of the highlights of the college campus and perfect for many different activities and specialisms.

Last year the Craft, Design and Fabrication Workshops, which were officially opened by creative visionary Sir John Sorrell, were shortlisted in the Building of the Year Category at the Michelmores Property Awards, showcasing the best of the South West’s property and construction industry.


(from a press release)