Andrew Marvell College
Hull, England
Andrew Marvell College
Hull, England

Creating a culture of lifelong learning and the encouragement of enterprise. Focusing on excellence. Raising the aspirations of students, staff and the local community. This embodies the vision and goals of top schools around the world.  

Built as the final project of a suite of three HKS projects within the Building Schools for the Future Project in Hull, Andrew Marvell College sits as a beacon on its community on the eastern side of the city. Rising over three stories, the dramatic form of the building creates a marked civic presence and places education back at the heart of the community.

Previously housed in a disparate set of buildings, the new school opened in January 2013 was designed to provide a focus for learning and actively encourage wider community participation. The design allows for easy access to a series of community-focused facilities including theatre, drama and dance studios, sports and leisure facilities spaces for community- and family-centred services including a business conference zone.

The Vision

Andrew Marvell College’s vision was to become an excellent school, raising the aspirations of its students, staff and local community through the provision of state-of-the-art facilities, the creation of a culture of lifelong learning, and the encouragement of enterprise. The notion of “enterprise” and how it might be embodied are central to the curriculum and formed a crucial element of the concept in design.

As a central tenet of the design, the building was to seamlessly embrace equally all parts of the curriculum. The school’s vision placed great importance in the new building to support us in breaking down the physical and perceptual barriers between vocational and academic education.

The team had two challenges: to create an environmentally and financially sustainable building capable of delivering long-term economies, and to nurture positive attitudes about sustainability in students. 

The Design

The building is a focal point – a beacon – with its height representing aspiration and ambition in an otherwise flat suburban landscape. Its formal articulation is a visual language of stacked, linear blocks that rise and twist, resulting in a building that rather resembles a stack of books. Terraces and overhangs create a strong relationship to the surrounding landscape in terms of views, outside learning spaces and social gathering places.

In addition to the obvious metaphorical links between books and a place of learning, the formal language of twisting planes creates three-dimensional character and interest. Internally, six curriculum-themed learning zones address a central “heart” space, which is part internal and part external, and unifies the various faculties and activities into a single institution. Each level bears a distinct identity articulated through a combination of colour supported by type and is expressed in the central heart. On the upper levels the learning zones are organised by a diverse series of teaching environments arranged around a communal learning zone, with each floor unified in identity through colour, and a pattern expressed in the choice of finishes.

To enhance the drama of the entrance sequence and celebrate the progressing identity of Andrew Marvell, the sculptural letters “A” and “M” literally support the dramatic entrance overhang. This continues a theme of language and lettering that runs through the school, showcased in the environmental graphic design and its understanding of the relationship between form and content.

The inspirational quotations in circulation and gathering spaces reflect the subjects taught in the vicinity, not only indicative of an aspirational learning environment but also functional as directional wayfinding devices, familiarising students and visitors with the building’s amenities. The school motto, “Achieve, believe, celebrate,” reverberates through the design and maintains the school’s ethos throughout.


Bioclimatic (the use of nature) design has been integrated into the overall design concept. Restricted room depths maximise the use of natural light, which reduces the reliance on artificial lighting for the majority of the day. The arrangement of the accommodation around a central atrium allows a considerable number of the teaching spaces to be naturally lit.

“The pupils have responded to the new building tremendously in terms of their attitudes to learning and respect for the new facilities … visitors have commented on the calm and purposeful learning climate in the college.”
|  Kevin Lister, Head Teacher, Andrew Marvell College   |