In 2009, dRMM was selected to design a much-needed replacement building for Four Dwellings Primary School as part of Birmingham City Council’s Building Schools for the Future and Primary Capital Programme framework. In spite of its out-dated post-war accommodation, the school was notable for hands-on, project-based education, so we worked with the senior management to develop a design that supported personalised, kinaesthetic learning.
Our solution was a ‘pinwheel’ design that allows the child to progress around the building from reception to year 4 at ground level and years 5 and 6 on the first floor. Designing the school from the inside out, we focused on the typical day of the student, with a determination to extend learning through internal, informal learning zones out into the outdoors. At the heart of the scheme is an inner central hall where the whole school can assemble. Extending outwards are a variety of different learning environments, beginning with social breakout spaces, then clustered classrooms where different year groups can interconnect. The classrooms open to the outdoors via canopied learning spaces, before ultimately extending to external play areas that are specific to each year group. This design provides the maximum variety of learning environments, inside and out, while ensuring that classroom sizes are not compromised.
We were steadfast that the focus on learning remained paramount throughout the project, from planning concept through to the selection of colourways and furniture. In addition to the immediate pedagogical requirements, Birmingham City Council placed high value on the potential for schools to bring wider benefits: as a resource and point of pride to foster broader community cohesion. With its transformational and much-admired design, Four Dwellings has gone a good way to achieving that.
Photography © Alex de Rijke