Crown Woods College

Greenwich, London

This large new academy, re-built as part of the Greenwich ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme, championed an innovative approach to pastoral care by creating 'schools within schools'. Each of three mini-colleges is housed in its own pavilion, creating smaller, more intimate ‘colleges’, each of 450 students with a similar-sized pavilion for the sixth form. Pupils spend most of their time in their college but move to other pavilions for specialist teaching as well as dining, sports and SEN.

The pavilions are linked by covered colonnades and are arranged in a chequerboard pattern to form diagonally-related courtyards each with their own character. These make way-finding simple and allow the buildings to enjoy excellent daylight.

The enlarged sports centre, which received funding to allow it to be used for Olympic training also provides a valuable legacy for the community.

The light, bright white corridors in the nine new buildings make the site feel more like an art gallery than a state comprehensive. The state-of-the-art competitive gym with capacity for 450 people feels like a professional facility.
The Guardian

Site context

The academy’s location on designated Metropolitan Open Land required us to demonstrate a convincing case for how the proposals met the policy criteria for redevelopment in MOL.

As a result, the project involved significant consultation with both the planning authority and nearby residents. Throughout the scheme development we worked on demonstrating the visual, acoustic and environmental impact of the scheme, its effect on playing fields, and the opportunities for increased biodiversity.

​Learning spaces

Each College has three floors of classrooms surrounding a top-lit central space. The central spaces are linked by an open stairs, to reinforce the sense of unit within the college. Each floor has a shared open workspace to allow for individual or group work. The science labs are placed on the top floor of each college. The arrangement of the rectangular colleges and courtyards means that all of the learning spaces have excellent daylight and outlook.

Schools within Schools

The school is divided into vertically-grouped mini-schools – or colleges – each with three forms of entry, containing 450 pupils each. Pupils spend between 60 and 70% of their time within their college, studying most subjects there, including science, and leaving it only for activities such as dining, assembly, PE, design and technology, art and music. The first three colleges each have three forms of entry, and the plan allows for a fourth to the added in the future.

The simple, generous layout has given rise to a calm order yet surprising diversity in the buildings and the spaces within them.
Civic Trust Awards jury

Our Team

Project Team

  • Project Management: Arup/Greenwich
  • Cost Planning: Cyril Sweett
  • Structural Engineer: BDP
  • Landscape Architect: FIRA
  • Sustainability Consultant: BDP
  • Acoustician: BDP
  • Fire Engineer: Tenos
  • Contractor: Balfour Beatty
  • Photography: Peter Durant


  • Winner: RIBA London Award
  • Commended: Civic Trust Awards