South Wolverhampton and Bilston Academy is a 1200 place, new-build academy with an imaginative and bold design approach reflecting the clients ambitious and innovative curriculum, located in an economically deprived area to the south of Wolverhampton.
The academy is co-sponsored by Wolverhampton University, Wolverhampton College and Wolverhampton City Council, and has specialisms in civil engineering and social care and medical science. The learning approach places a great emphasis on skills and the brief required the development of four learning zones with a mix of cellular and specialist accommodation wrapping around large open-planned skill zone areas.
The design provides a floor level to each of the four learning zones; on each level class-bases wrap around a more open central area, with a series of voids opening up double and triple height top-lit spaces interspersed with centralised accommodation: lecture theatre, hall and café spaces. The main entrance is at first floor level, working with the slope of the site, providing views from the entrance foyer down into the dramatic double height engineering hall. Platforms at different levels provide exciting views between differing storeys, whilst wide internal staircases linking between floors provide both additional informal lecture areas and intuitive wayfinding.
Externally the building has been clad in vertical battens of siberian larch to sit harmoniously with the adjacent woods in what is otherwise a gritty urban area. The concept of interlinked accessible platforms is continued to the envelope with cantilevered projections providing a series of external terraces and sheltered canopies beneath, and also to the landscape offering an excellent range of outdoor sports, learning and recreation spaces for the students. A public art programme involving both students and renowned artists has resulted in a series of interventions to celebrate the historical significance of the industrial heritage of the site and local area.