Marian College's new home under the giant warehouse roof

Marian College's new campus is up-and-running after a 12-year journey to find its 430 students a permanent home.

The Catholic girls' school will leave its Barbadoes St base at the end of the year and move into a brand new home at the former Foodstuffs distribution centre site on Lydia St, Northcote.

The $50 million purpose-built school sits under a giant warehouse roof, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Principal Mary-Lou Davidson has already moved into the new school.

"It's a unique build, so most people are quite surprised.

"You can't see much from the outside because of the warehouse structure, but once you come in it's remarkable.

"And so most people are completely blown away by it."

Marian College's new school on Lydia St in Northcote. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Marian College's new school on Lydia St in Northcote. Photo: Geoff Sloan
The college moved from its original Shirley site after was damaged in the February 22, 2011, earthquake, to its temporary home on Barbadoes St.

Then the Catholic Diocese bought the former Foodstuffs centre in Northcote and decided to retrofit a two-storey school into the giant warehouse.

Armitage Williams managing director Ben Harrow admits the project was complex, taking five years to plan and design and another two to build.

"We've had eight key managers on the project from Armitage Williams, and they've been working on it from day dot.

"For them it's quite emotional to hand over a project to a client because it's been their home for the last two years, but they're stoked."

Davidson said the chapel is the centrepiece of the new school, featuring a large cross made from the wood of an oak tree that grew at the Shirley site.

It includes a striking star-lit ceiling which represents the night sky on the day the school officially opened in 1982

As well as the chapel, the new site has 26 classrooms, a full gymnasium, four multi-use indoor courts, a performing arts theatre, and an outdoor courtyard and sports fields.

Davidson said many of their students live in the north of the city.

"Our brother school, St Bede's, is just down the road and St Joseph's Papanui is next door and we have a lot of students come from North Canterbury, so that feels like home already."

Once exams have finished and the Barbadoes St site is no longer needed, the bishop will reclaim it as office space. The new Northcote site is set to be officially opened in February, just in time to welcome students back for the new school year.

- By Geoff Sloan
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air