College's new block opens

GRAND DESIGN: Avondale College's new math and physics block.
GRAND DESIGN: Avondale College's new math and physics block.

The first stage in a multi-million dollar rebuilding programme at Avondale College has been opened by Prime Minister John Key.

The project will see the school almost entirely rebuilt. Principal Brent Lewis says the Education Ministry has indicated it may well be the biggest school rebuilding programme in New Zealand's history.

The new maths and physics block, which opened this month, gives the school's 2650 students a modern learning environment.

OPENING DAY: Avondale College principal Brent Lewis with Prime Minister John Key at the opening of the school's new maths and physics building on June 10.
OPENING DAY: Avondale College principal Brent Lewis with Prime Minister John Key at the opening of the school's new maths and physics building on June 10.

The facility, designed by Jasmax, contains the latest technology with data projectors and computers in each room.

Sustainability is a key feature of the building with double glazing, rainwater tanks and an ecologically sound design that gives good natural ventilation.

"It's lovely and cool in summer and a very pleasant temperature right now – and that's all in the building design, rather than using a lot of energy to heat and cool it," Mr Lewis says.

He says the three-stage project is funded by the government and the school.

"About $35 million came from the government and over $5m from the school through business activities."

"It's a very exciting project. It's rare to have the chance to redesign a school like this. It's not just the buildings being replaced – the whole landscape of the school is changing. Out of the school's 108 classrooms, 83 will be replaced by the end of the project.

"Apart from our performing arts centre, technology facility and sports centre, almost the entire school is being replaced. It's taken about five years of planning to get to this point," Mr Lewis says.

Deputy head boy Mitchell Darrah, 17, has three classes in the new block and says working in the new classrooms is making a huge difference.

"My physics teacher has changed the way he teaches now that he has a data projector. It makes such a difference to me. I find the visual learning, with slideshows and videos, make it much easier to understand what he's talking about."

The building work for stage two is already well underway and will include the chemistry, biology and general science rooms, a new student canteen, a second dance studio, new health and physical education rooms and the social science faculty.

The remainder of the old buildings will be demolished over the summer holidays and stage three will begin in March 2012.

"The third stage will include a new careers faculty, outdoor education room, college shop, administration and reception, the english faculty, media faculty, computing, commerce and ESOL," Mr Lewis says.

The maths and physics block incorporates imagery and patterns that reflect the local area. The atrium that connects the two buildings that make up the block was inspired by the godwits that fly over the school.

"The team responsible for the build have been very mindful of their responsibilities in creating the very best possible learning environment for the Avondale community: one that respects the past yet creates a forward thinking, energy efficient, high quality design that is attractive, robust and sufficiently flexible to be able to be adapted for the changing educational demands of the future."

Avondale College opened in 1945, having been originally designed as a US hospital base during World War Two, with the intention of it being used as a school at the war's end.

– Lanuola Tusani is an AUT journalism student

Western Leader