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Inspired by a traditional treasure box, the visual and performing arts centre at St Hilda’s Collegiate School in Dunedin has won a national award.
Te Waka Huia, designed by Cameron Grindlay, of Dwelling Architectural Design, recently won the Architectural Designers of New Zealand (ADNZ) 2020 commercial/industrial award.
Grindlay said the underlying design narrative was proposed by the head of the school’s art department and based on a waka huia — a treasure box used by Maori to hold precious adornments. In this case, the staff, the pupils and the work they create is the treasure held within.
The 780sqm building includes spaces for photography, visual art, dance and drama and has a gently raked roof that rises from single storey at the entrance to a double-height performance space. There is a sprung dance floor as well as an outdoor paint spray booth and shared storage and service areas in the middle that allow for collaboration between productions.
Grindlay, who has been working in the industry since 1998 and had his own practice since 2012, said interiors were warm and neutral so they did not compete with student creativity.
The white roof and cladding reduce heat loading on the building, while other sustainable features include a stormwater retention tank, heat recovery system, LED lighting, thermally broken, low-e/argon double glazing and high levels of insulation.
The award judges said the design "artfully avoided the predictable pitfalls of a performing arts centre", by creating something that was not ostentatious and showy nor boxy and anonymous.
The facade was broken into playful elements without descending into visual chaos.
"[It is] a clean, crisp design without feeling institutional."