Wellington East Girls' College undergoing multimillion-dollar transformation
Even on a dreary spring afternoon, construction workers plying their trade on Wellington East Girls' College's $39 million redevelopment still have one of the city's best landscapes to admire.
And soon students and staff will have too, as the Ministry of Education's biggest school building project in the capital begins to take shape.
Designers have managed to strike a delicate balance between preserving the old while integrating the new.
When construction is completed in January 2019, the school will lay claim to a state-of-the-art facility serving students for years to come.
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Among the new features is a new whare manaaki, dubbed the school's "cultural heart", as well as a performance precinct, a prayer room and cafe.
A media centre – equipped with a green room, sound recording studio, video editing suite and a cinema – will also be at the college's disposal, as well as a new library on the second of four levels.
Art classes will take place on the top floor, providing access to flexible learning areas and allowing students to draw inspiration from the picturesque cityscape below.
"We certainly see the building as a magnificent opportunity for this school and for young people in the eastern suburbs," principal Sally Haughton said.
The striking historic facade of the college's main block, which opened in 1924, has long been a landmark in Mt Victoria, at the base of the town belt.
But there hasn't been a single class taught in it since 2011, after seismic testing revealed it was only 17 per cent of the national building standard.
The board of trustees made the decision to clear the building amid concerns it wouldn't withstand a moderate earthquake. Former education minister Hekia Parata then announced the ministry would fund the rebuild in November 2015.
Since then, significant work has been done to preserve the building's architectural features.
This includes retaining the facade, restoring and renovating the vestibule and parapets, while still creating a new building that meets 100 per cent of the code.
"There was a sense that we needed to retain that facade in order to connect the future development of the school to that strong past and tradition," Haughton said.
"It has allowed us to plan a modern, 21st-century building that will restore the heart of the school."
Wellington East, and its roll of 1050 students, have continued with business as usual despite operating in a live construction site.
At times, earmuffs and earplugs have been dished out to provide relief from the clamour of the work.
"In the main, the staff and students have been remarkably resilient. There is noise and, at times, we work with [construction company] Naylor Love to decrease noise or shift the times when the noisy work has been happening," Haughton said.
Haughton said the build coincided with the school's move towards more collaborative learning, including the creation of new open spaces.
"We did some research and visited a lot of schools and made some decisions about answering that question – how will learning be in the future?
"We were able to write a brief for the architect that meant the spaces that have been designed for us will enhance the learning transformation."
BY THE NUMBERS
* 6000sqm: the amount of new school floor area created
* More than 850: the number of separate construction drawings for the project
* 5000: the number of tiles used to replace original brick
* 3 metres: how much height will be added to the main block
* 5: the number of existing buildings the new block will replace
* 250,000 cubic metres: the amount of rock moved from the site