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The heart of St Bede’s beats new life

The heart of St Bede’s beats new life
The new chapel at St Bede’s College replaces the original building lost in the Christchurch earthquakes.

Prominently positioned at the head of St Bede’s College’s driveway, the new Chapel takes pride of place reflecting the values and faith held by the iconic school that has been part of Christchurch’s heritage since 1911.

Designed to be the heart of the college both spiritually and physically, the Chapel will be the first building seen from the driveway, welcoming visitors to its front entrance and then opening into the heart of the school itself.

Overlooking the school grounds, the view will be directed straight into the chapel—a conceptual message that reminds us that this is a school with a strong Christian focus.

Due for completion mid-way through 2019, the new chapel replaces the original building lost to Christchurch’s earthquakes.

The school also lost its Assembly Hall, two dormitories and a teaching block. Other 1950’s vintage buildings suffered more cosmetic damage but required seismic strengthening.

Chairman of the Board of Proprietors for St Bede’s College, Shane O’Brien, says that following the damage much time was spent, not just reflecting on what the school had, but envisioning what was needed going forward.

“We considered what education would look like in the future—what were the needs of the boys. Rather than just replace what we had with like-for-like we took it as an opportunity to actually understand the future infrastructure requirements for a school of 800 boys.”

After challenging the school to think about its needs and priorities, a master plan was developed covering the next 50 years, breaking the plan into manageable stages.

Currently in progress at a cost of $16.5 million, Stage One includes the completion of pre-earthquake work on the school’s gymnasium a new classroom block catering for the design arts and food technology, the new Chapel and remediation of the Performing Arts Centre—facilities that reflected the school’s most pressing needs for the development of young men of the future.

The Performing Art Centre project involves repairing some earthquake damage and the replacement of another part of the building that was lost to the earthquake.

“It will allow us to have dedicated space for the cultural side of the college and that’s really important if we are to develop good men with a good balance between sport, academic, spiritual and cultural awareness.”

Sited next to the Chapel, work on the Performing Arts Centre and the Chapel is being treated as one project with Naylor Love engaged as lead contractor for both buildings.

Shane says the Performing Arts Centre will also be one of the first buildings seen when entering the college from the driveway, so it was important the facility was not only fit for purpose but also set a tone for the college.

“It also had to visually and logistically connect with the chapel so that there was an architectural vista across the entire front of the college. They don’t connect physically but they had to connect in terms of space and the movement of pedestrian and vehicles.

“It was really important that the dynamic around those two buildings was right and that they blended in with existing buildings in close proximity.”

Shane credits Alec Bruce from Christchurch architectural practice Wilkie Bruce Architects for meeting the challenge head-on and achieving a fusion between the buildings aesthetics and functionality and the spaces around them.

With the Chapels foundation stone laid and blessed in recent weeks, Shane is excited that St Bede’s will once again have its own Chapel and looks forward to it being used by the school’s Old Boys and families for weddings, funerals and christenings.

Reflecting on the damage to the building, Shane says the really exciting thing for the Board of Proprietors is that the school itself didn’t really suffer.

“We continue to turn out great young men. Our NCEA results are the best they have ever been; our school roll is full and we have a waiting list.

“The school is not about buildings—it’s about the faith and the values. I think that if you have good strong values and leadership the buildings, while important, are secondary to why the school exists.

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