The Rockfield Centre

A community destination where people of all ages and background can meet

The Rockfield Centre has come to life as a hub that intertwines community, performing arts, heritage, and a business centre, catering to the diverse needs of both residents and visitors in one location. What makes Rockfield unique is its fusion with a social facility. This marks a fresh approach in the cultural sector, merging production, exhibition, and commerce. It acknowledges that fostering artistic endeavors thrives in an environment promoting interaction, entertainment, and commercial activity through innovative collaborations.

The key objective was to establish a space that encourages and facilitates these interactions, fostering adaptability and flexibility to embrace opportunities while maintaining an affordable platform for such endeavors. This project stands as an inspiring example of a community uniting to preserve its heritage, repurposing it to serve the community’s needs.


The Category B listed Victorian Board School was used continually from 1875 until 2007 before falling into disrepair. It was saved from demolition by its community in 2015 before Oban Communities Trust was formed to purchase the building in 2015.

The 2 storey, asymmetrical school building has French-style detailing building and comprises three phases. Alexander McQueen’s original at south end and play-shelter were completed around 1875. This was extended in 1901 by Alexander Shairp to provide additional classrooms, W.C.s and circulation and again in 1959 with an infill to rear to the by the county Architect WR Toucher, meeting the growing demand for school placements with a new dining room and two new classrooms.

The priorities of former generations for daylight and ventilation have been reinstated through refurbishment of its high-ceilinged spaces and large sash windows, these supplemented by restoration of its passive ventilation system. For those revisiting their former schooldays, the refurbished spaces have become a living history, further strengthened by its growing exhibition of donated period memorabilia.


The structured briefing workshops carried out with the Trust, identified the emerging brief as having dynamic and changing requirements that would require a new and more flexible approach to design that creates a truly sustainable and adaptable building. Our role as architects was one to support a remarkable group of capable and multi-skilled individuals, in helping them define their vision and making it a reality.

From very early in their journey the Trust has been continually consulting and listening to the community. Through this early listening four clear core themes were identified for what the building should strive to facilitate:

  • Arts & Culture
  • History & Heritage
  • Enterprise & Education
  • Community Wellbeing

The mixed-use proposal and grassroots client were attractive to funding bodies and the process of initial purchase to opening was managed efficiently through a five-year period that despite loss of a funder, market cost increases and the Covid Lockdown. Further proposals will see development of the central setting as an urban park for the town with refurbishment of its Play Shelter as exhibition, workshop and demonstration space.


Our design focus on the interior arrangement was to create a building which allows the use of flexible spaces that can adapt to meet the changing needs of the community. Our strategy was light touch, to create a core of permanent services and spaces into which changing uses can function. Budgets were limited however, and prioritisation of securement of fabric and space refurbishment meant that fitting out would need to be stalled, to be completed by the client as revenue started to flow.

At the same time, our approach has been to ensure the character of the school should not become lost or sanitised by the improvements to the fabric and internal arrangement but should become a living repository for the history and culture of its community, and its hinterland to which Oban was the hub. Historic fabric such as the timber panelling and glazed tiles has been revealed, coat hooks and benches retained, and design of the interpretation and selection of new furniture and fittings have been informed by the charm of original building.

Project Info

Oban Communities Trust
October 2020
Project Manager
Andrew Pinkerton
Structural Engineer
David Narro Associates
M&E Engineer
Atelier 10
Cost Consultant
Gardiner & Theobald
CDM Co-ordinator
CDM Scotland
Ross Campbell
Page\Park Architects
Interior & Interpretation Design
Page\Park Architects