Two awards for Amesbury School

20:24, Nov 02 2012
Amesbury School
Amesbury School picked up two architecture awards this week.

The first new public primary school built in Wellington in 25 years has won two architecture awards.

Amesbury School, in Churton Park, was awarded a New Zealand Institute of Architects Wellington award for sustainable architecture and education architecture.

The school was completed in time for the start of this year.

The designers, McKenzie Higham Architecture, came up with a successful design on a challenging site, said the awards jury convener, architect Paki Maaka.

"It's a great use of a bad site and limited resources," he said.

"It's not just a group of great, well-lit buildings, the school is also an integral part of building a community in the area. People take ownership of the space and buildings and get to know their neighbours more. It's a great model that points a way forward for other schools in the area."


The Wellington Architecture Awards are an official, peer-reviewed programme of the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

Architect Callum McKenzie said the McKenzie Higham team were thrilled with the two awards.

"It was not expected at all. We were delighted that it received the awards for all of our team who had put in a big effort and dedicated a lot of careful thought and creativity to the project. To have your peers recognise that effort and the results of it was extremely rewarding." He said the school site had some unique challenges.

"It was an old landfill for clean material, but it was poorly compacted and the site had some issues with small amounts of methane gas," he said.

"Firstly, we were very constricted with where we could put buildings and secondly we had to pile those buildings to up to 10 metres deep. With the gas, we had to create membranes under all the buildings to ensure that no gas could ever be trapped underneath the buildings and then vent any gas out safely."

The school buildings are sited north to south to allow sun into all spaces while forming a central sheltered courtyard. Their location on the west of the site allows for planting and extensive outdoor areas on the east of the site. All classroom groups are able to access the outdoor areas including the sports field spaces formed as outdoor learning areas.

The school has a five-star sustainability rating. Features include water-conducted underfloor heating and toilets run on stormwater. There are panels around the school for the pupils to learn about how the building was built, and its energy consumption.

McKenzie said the engagement with builders Maycroft Construction and the education community was invaluable.

"It had some very real benefits. We could take their [Maycroft's] knowledge about how the work would be constructed and buildability," he said. "The current principal wasn't appointed until after the design work had been completed. So until that point we had no principal to talk to. So we put together this reference group of six local principals and we used them as our sounding board and that was a very valuable and useful thing to do."

Amesbury School principal Lesley Murrihy said the staff and pupils loved their new school.

"We think that architects really deserve the award because they have done an outstanding job. They have gone above and beyond to ensure we have a school that meets our needs. The kids just love the school, the natural light and the open spaces."

The Dominion Post