The Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton, south London, has been shortlisted for the Stirling Prize, the most celebrated award in British architecture.
The award pits the secondary school against such high-profile construction projects as the London 2012 Olympics velodrome by Hopkins Architects and Bennetts Associates' Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford.
Designed by Iraq-born architect Zaha Hadid, the Evelyn Grace Academy embraces a number of current educational trends, including schools within schools and longer school days. It is sponsored by academy charity Ark and is situated in the ward with the highest crime rate in Western Europe.
The Stirling Prize judges said: "Internally the academy is a good-quality and functional modern school, with occasional moments of architectural drama which serve as reminders that this is architecture and not just a building, though not in any way at the expense of utility or value. This is a design that makes kids run to get into school in the morning."
The school is second favourite (52) to win with bookmaker William Hill, after the Olympic velodrome. The winner will be announced in October.