Monday, March 23, 2015

Fine pile

The beginning of the 1916 school year for the Auckland Boys' Grammar School will always be associated with the crossing over from the old site in Lower Symonds Street to the commanding site on the slopes of Mount -Eden. At last the scholastic institution which is part of the civic life of Auckland has found a home worthy of the great reputation it has earned. By to-morrow the new building will have had its first testing as a place where teachers and pupils together grapple with the humanities and the sciences. The "new boys" were in attendance yesterday, and to-morrow a start will be made by the full school. The handsome red-roofed pile of masonry which constitutes the new Grammar School is now one of the architectural features of the city.


A more picturesque locality for so fine a building could hardly have been obtained within easy reach of the city. In many respects Mountain Road is more like a wooded country lane than a suburban thoroughfare.  Then, too, there is the bold background of Mount Eden, and a superb view, which embraces the northern suburbs, Rangitoto and the wide expanse of the gulf. Wonders have been worked with the grounds. A year or two ago the place where the school now stands was a bed of volcanic rocks, flanking the "old rifle range." These were patiently removed to allow of top-dressing, and now the school has the benefit of a sports ground, as level as a billiard table, and as soft as a residential lawn.  Added to all these advantages is the fact that the school is within easy walking distance of the penny section at the top of Symonds Street, and the stop in Khyber Pass, near the Park Road junction.

The new building was designed by Messrs. Arnold and Abbott, architects, and the work was carried out by the firm of Messrs. U. K. Hutchison and Co. Its cost was l36,000.


The architects have adopted the "mission" style of building, an attractive form of architecture which is associated with the early religious institutions founded by the Spanish missionaries in Southern California. The style was chosen for the Auckland school as being peculiarly suitable to this climate. To mention only one feature, an exceedingly important one in a scholastic institution designed to accommodate several hundred boys, the window area is carefully gauged to give the best lighting results in our climate.

The building consists of three storeys and a basement, built in glazed brick, with rough-cast wails, the roof being covered with Marseilles tiles. The floors are specially deadened, so that the complete silence which makes for isolation and effective teaching is ensured. Two large flat roofs, both at the back and at the front on the first floor, provide open-air spaces that may usefully be employed in the administration of the school curriculum. Over these flat roofs light is admitted into the large central hall, which is, perhaps, the most significant feature of the whole building.


This interior central hall, which is 108ft long by 48ft wide, and has a total height of 30ft, is faced with glazed bricks in greys, browns, and greens, to the springing of the barrel vault, at a height of 25ft. The barrel vault is finished partially in plaster and partially in cement sheets. The light comes through piercings in the vault looking out over the flat roofs already referred to.

Corridors and the first-floor gallery run round three sides of the central hall, and there is also a gallery on the second floor, at the west end. All the rooms open on to the galleries or the corridors.


From the outside, the outstanding feature of the building (apart from the imposing entrance on the north-east, consisting of an open arcade running between two pavilions, with an accentuated central feature) is the effect of the towers at the four corners of the central hall. These are carried up as special features, and are typical of the style. They are used for the reception of emergency water storage tanks, each carrying 1,000 gallons, and at the top storey of each tower is a large ventilator, each one effective over a quarter of the school.

The ground floor is level with the playing fields and below this level, on the north-west side, are workshops and shelter sheds. The ground floor and first floor are occupied by class-rooms and lavatories, and the second storey, which is carried up only at the end of the hall, is used to accommodate on the one end the library and museum and on the other store room and lavatory. In the basement there is a bicycle room and a janitor's room.


To regard the mass of buildings as the home of a good school, which has an atmosphere of its own that would transform even a tent or the old pile of wooden rooms into a real school, it may be interesting to note that the follow points specially relating to school Architecture have been kept prominently in view:—

Ready assembly.

Easy drafting into class-rooms.

Light class-rooms in perfect shape.

Exits and emergencies.


Ample ventilation.

Cleaning arrangements.

The seven essential requirements of a school building have, it is claimed, been obtained by adopting the central hall type of construction. The corridors are ten feet wide in every case. The headmaster's room is so placed as to give adequate supervision over the front entrances and the corridors. A separate staircase gives quick access to the gallery round the hall. The back of the building is well under the supervision of the masters from their common room, which also overlooks the playing fields. For cleaning purposes provision has been made for the janitor on each floor, sinks, cupboards, and shoots being established at three of the corners. It will be seen, therefore, that the building is not only distinctive and impressive from an architectural point of view, but from the point of view of practical workaday use by six hundred boys and their masters it is a comfortable, healthy home, where the body may develop equally soundly with the mind.

The entrance to the school will be marked by gates in keeping with the architectural style of the building. Although school has taken up to-day without ceremony, there will be a formal opening at a suitable date later on. All the school records and documents have been transferred to the new building, and one wall in the central hall has been left clear for the "Honours Board.''

Auckland Star
15 February 1916
Page 7

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