Priory Church in Wales Primary School


Priory Church in Wales Primary School

Location: Brecon, Wales
Building Type: Primary School


This school, located in the historic town of Brecon within Brecon Beacons National Park, demonstrates how a space can be designed to simultaneously support accessibility, sustainability, a flexible learning environment, and a warm aesthetic.

Perspectives and Goals

The Governors required that their new school provide, “children of the next generation and of the locality, with a school which encapsulates all that is expected to ensure a fitting environment for education in the 21st Century.” The school brief included a requirement for a nursery, an assembly hall, learning resource, food technology and creative arts facilities together with areas where teachers can deliver activities related to the ‘learning through play’ initiative.

Petersen Williams Architects was chosen to undertake the project, since this Cardiff based architectural practice has extensive experience in Education and Ecclesiastic projects.


Universal Design

The design team consulted with local community and access groups and potential users to gain insight into their needs and their hopes for the new school. The design of the building strives to foster a sense of community within the school, while still providing classrooms and separate areas that can be used for smaller group activities. Larger assembly spaces are located towards the center of the school and are surrounded by smaller classrooms.

The classrooms are arranged numerically from the entrance and are accessed from the wide curved circulation route that runs throughout the building. This makes navigation and wayfinding easy, even for young children. The wide circulation route to the nursery and infant classes can also be used as an overflow learning area. The circulation route extends outside and wraps around the external courtyard, which is also used as a learning, play or assembly area. The single level design and placement of facilities ensures that all areas are available to everyone, eliminating the risk of stigma or separation for certain user groups.

Green Design

Sustainable design elements incorporated in the scheme include a biomass fuelled boiler, grey water harvesting and photovoltaic units.


Client feedback indicates that their brief requirements have been met, and the Priory School has become a popular venue for community events. The school was the 2012 winner of the Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design, which recognized the school stating, “The Priory Church in Wales Primary School is an exemplar of how thoughtful and innovative design, together with a clear understanding of user needs, can combine to produce an environment that is inclusive and accessible to all those who use it.”


Architect: Petersen Williams
Developer: Diocese of Swansea and Brecon
Landscape Designer: Petersen Williams
Services Engineer: McCann and Partners
Structural Engineer: Opus International
Contractor: John Weaver
Inclusive Design Consultant: Petersen Williams
Interior Designer: Petersen Williams
Photographer: Beacons Images

Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.