Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Kahurangi School in Wellington, New Zealand by Stephenson&Turner
November 21st, 2014 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Stephenson&Turner
Kahurangi School is the latest new school in the Wellington region. Kahurangi School, meaning “prized” or “precious” opened in September 2013, merging two existing schools, Strathmore Community School and Miramar South School. The design creates a new beginning, with buildings that provide a strong sense of its identity, reflecting the rich cultural diversity of its community and with Pasifika/Maori in particular.
S&T led the creation of a new master plan for the school as well as the design of modern learning environments, utilising the existing buildings from both schools. The plan proposes better connections to the surrounding community, improved traffic management and a proposed new community centre/covered indoor pool facility to replace the current, aging outdoor pool.
The planning and design process involved extensive consultation with the staff and communities of both schools. The S&T team looked at the physical condition of the buildings and their seismic capacity, while also surveying the building services throughout the school and its site infrastructure.
One of the challenges of the project has been determining how to merge two schools, both with long histories, into one which both recognises their individual pasts and also creates a new single identity for the future. The Ministry of Education has indicated more mergers of this kind will likely follow in other cities in New Zealand, particularly Christchurch, as student numbers drop in some areas. The success of this merger will create a model for future schools around the country to follow.
While the design brings the school “into the 21st Century,” it has been a challenge to both respect the heritage of the school buildings and also ensure they meet new seismic requirements. As architect Murray Robertson explains: “A key part of modern learning environments, in contrast to the seismic requirements, is opening up the traditional boxed-in classroom, creating transparency and connections between adjacent spaces. Balancing the two has required careful planning and consideration.”
The other key challenge was creating something visibly new that gives the school a new identity while reusing the existing building. Part of this identity is representing the surrounding diverse communities (which have strong Pasifika, Maori, and Asian populations) through colour, the entry canopy forms and painted artwork in the playground which all have a Pasifika theme.
The project has the opportunity to make a significant impact on the lives of its pupils. In a Decile 2 community it’s uncommon for the students to have internet at home and so the school wants to open their library to the whole community, where computers and the internet can be accessed. The library, therefore, will be the front face of the school, with full glazing to the street creating an inviting and welcoming atmosphere.
“We all can’t wait for our school to be completed. Our new school environment is going to further support our children to becoming confident and connected to the modern world. Access to Information Technology is a real priority for our community and this new school is about to deliver it – it’s going to be like Christmas for us all”
“Creating one large, full primary school will strengthen education and provide stability for children and their families in the area.”