'Wall of Wishes', 'Neon Dream' and 'Aspire'

Brunel Academy. Image courtesy of Bristol City Council. Photo © James Harris.


Brunel Academy is one of a number of new schools in the City developed under the first wave of Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in Bristol led by BCC and the Bristol LEP (Local Education Partnership). As part of the development artist Gordon Clements was commissioned to develop a new art work for the building, working closely with the art consultant (RIO).


Bristol Brunel Academy was the first secondary school in the UK to be completed as part of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, and was opened by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in September 2007 having been procured via a PFI route.

The school was designed by architects Wilkinson Eyre and takes the form of a three-storey ‘split’ block of accommodation, subdivided to create two distinct banks of educational space arranged about a central atrium or street. These are connected by a series of internal footbridges and perimeter walkways. The masterplan for the overall site includes improved landscaping and playing fields, the college actively encouraging the community use of these facilities.

Artist Gordon Young was invited to create a work that captured the spirit of the school and its students. During a workshop with school children, Gordon was inspired by one of the student’s accounts of her favourite film, Roman Holiday which directly led to the idea of a ‘wall of wishes’. All those involved in the school, from pupils and teachers to cooks, cleaners and builders were invited to dream up wishes which were then carved individually onto slabs of marble and installed floor to ceiling in the entrance atrium. Ranging from unashamed wishes for material objects to poignant emotional pleas this work harnesses the dreams and aspirations of the school and its community.

The work was developed in collaboration with ‘Why Not Associates’ with implementation by Russell Coleman.

Gordon Young

Gordon Young is a visual artist who focuses on creating art for the public domain. His work ranges from sculptures to typographic pavements for places as disrelated as government headquarters and village squares. The common denominator for all projects is the basis of relevance to the surroundings.

Brunel Academy

England’s first new school to be completed under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme opened its doors to students in September 2007. Bristol Brunel Academy is a 1,080-place secondary school for 11-16-year-olds and also provides a 100-place sixth form. A dual-use leisure centre with a fitness suite, dance studio and changing rooms operates alongside the Academy and is used by students, staff and the local community.

A survey of students before and after they moved into the new school showed that the number who felt proud of their school rose from 43% to 77%, those who enjoyed going to school increased from 50% to 61% and the number who felt safe at school rose from 57% to 87%.

Bristol Brunel Academy acted as a trailblazer for the many other successful BSF projects that have since followed, and other schools and local authorities have repeatedly applied the good practice it established.

  • Commissioner

    Bristol City Council

  • Produced by

    RIO (Real Ideas Organisation)

  • Partners

    Building Schools for the Future (BCC, Skanska, LEP)

  • Supported by

    Bristol City Council