Woodview Construction has commenced work on the $26 million redevelopment of the Takapuna Grammar School historic Main Block and Hall buildings.
Prendos was chosen as the Architects, Structural Engineers and Fire Engineers for this landmark project which encompasses weather tightness remediation, structural strengthening, historic restoration and a complete internal Innovative Learning Environment refurbishment. Lead Architect to the project Natasha Cockerell, provides insight into the bold new design.
How do you think the modern design of the new hall works with the heritage style of the main block?
We have been working with Archifact who are heritage advisors and they prefer that anything new doesn’t try to be like the old block, that it tries to be completely different so the contrast is actually quite important from a heritage point of view and still keeping the main block defined as itself and not trying to add on something else that is part of that.
The façade has been built onto the existing hall which is a 60 year old weatherboard building. Functionally and aesthetically it didn’t work: what the school wanted to do was to re-orientate the hall so that it opened up into the centre of the school.
In response, we removed the back end of the existing hall and an adjacent tuck shop built in the 1950s, and placed the new entry at the rear which opens up onto a series of terraces designed to improve ingress to the building. The school had a small budget for landscaping and we were able to create something that moves people through the space more easily.
What were your key design considerations and choice of materials?
The charcoal steel cladding was mainly chosen to tie it in with the rest of the school, which is quite modern: around the middle block there are other buildings that have been built within the last 10 years that are generally a mixture of red brick and steel cladding. The materiality links the new extension rather than trying to do something different again.
Is it a cost effective material to use?
It is reasonably cost effective. The wide pan steel is an architectural steel profile which is not the absolutely cheapest material to use, but it has the advantage of being very low maintenance.
How were you inspired to come up with the design?
We had a reasonably tight timeframe to come up with the design. The design is driven by the incorporation of the existing structure, particularly with reference to the pitch of the roof. We could have used white weatherboard like the rest of the building, but we wanted to do something different and modern that made a statement about how the entrance was defined. We decided not to put eaves on it so it was one big plane and kept it really simple by applying the materiality of the surrounding buildings.
The interior of the hall is art deco; it has a curved vaulted ceiling and beautifully detailed columns. However, after discovering these elements were positive for asbestos and needed to be structurally strengthened, it was decided to reinstate these features as opposed to keeping the original forms. We didn’t want to lose the detail completely, but we needed to make it safe as a priority.
Which parts of the design do you think work particularly well?
I think it has to do with the simplicity of it in comparison to the main block. We didn’t want to compete or draw too much attention away from the landmark heritage building. Also I think the new design helps to connect the rest of the school. At the moment the hall is cut off: to get to it you need to go through two small side entrances or go through the foyer of the main block.
The new design creates a grand entrance so you can imagine if the school has a play on, they can direct people up there, there will be some nice outdoor lighting up the steps to the main entry – it will work really well.