New lease of life for historic library
When Wanganui Collegiate School opened for the start of new academic year, its students were rewarded with a beautifully refurbished library, replete with all the tools of modern learning while retaining the aura of its past.
Starting life as Wanganui Collegiate School’s charming dining hall in 1911, the building was repurposed in the 1960’s, becoming the HG Carver Memorial Library.
Graced by the presence of notable alumini including racing car driver Chris Amon, All Black David Kirk, former Governor General Sir Arthur Porritt and Prince Edward the Earl of Wessex, the building is steeped in enviable history—contributing to New Zealand’s positive impact on the world stage.
Some five years ago the library and the rest of the campus was listed as Heritage Category One – recognising the building’s signifi cance within the community and ensuring it remains part of the school’s and Wanganui’s heritage for generations to come.
Identifying the need to undertake seismic strengthening to the 107-year-old building as part of a continuing programme of upgrading the school’s facilities, the schools Board of Trustees saw an opportunity to refurbish the library, bringing it into the 21st Century.
Chris Fallows, himself a Wanganui Collegiate School old boy, was appointed project manager, spearheading the construction team which included award winning architectural practice RTA Studio, structural engineers BPL Group Quantity Surveyor BBD with W&W Construction awarded the role of lead contractors.
“I recall going into the library and sitting my University entrance exams in 1972,” says Chris.
“When you’re at school you take it all for granted but looking at it now it still looks and smells the same. “It makes me feel very proud to be part of the project, but it comes with its pressures.
“It’s very personal for me; you have to get everything right -it’s a special job.” Removing an old 1960’s style mezzanine floor along with a number of internal offices, the interior of the single storey building was completely gutted, exposing all the original architecture of the early 1900’s.
“Major effort has gone into the seismic strengthening, digging underneath the old ground beams and drilling piles down deep into the ground,” says Chris.
“The most complicated bit was the existing columns that were effectively hollowed out, and refilled with reinforced concrete poured inside them. That was done very well both by the designer and the contractor.”
A very tall building, a new floating mezzanine floor runs almost full length of the library while beautiful ceiling beams are plainly visible from the ground, adding to its chapel like appearance.
“The original matai floorboards have been returned and they have even re-used the old bricks with the right colour mortar to keep it looking original.”
While retaining the originality of the building’s exterior, a new entrance lobby opening out into the school quad area has been added.
Chris says that like the other school buildings subject to upgrade, new additions reflect a modern take on the school campus rather than an attempt at replicating existing structures. “Libraries are very social places now. No longer are they silent and grim places.
“With the colours, furniture and break out rooms—it will become quite a central area for the schools different houses to get together.”
State of the art information and communication technology with all the latest data connections has been fitted out—all wired and configured for how things are done at the moment and into the future.
The re-born library features multi-functional areas with nice breakout rooms, USB communication hubs and a modern and efficient HVAC system.
Bookshelves lining the walls are complemented with settees and beanbags where social interactivity is encouraged—the new way of learning. Bright spaces with clean lines, the building will draw people in—a place they will want to connect and learn.
“The school is really pushing ahead and there is a great future. The school wants to be seen to look and be progressive but at the same time it enjoys a lot of history.”
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