The principal design objectives of this project were to ensure the seamless integration of the new school into the existing one by incorporating both Maori and Pasifika elements equally into the cultural and spatial fabric of the school.
The entrance to the original bilingual units building was retained, modernised and integrated into the new buildings so students move through the old into the new. The school has four large open plan teaching and learning spaces, signified by four large timber columns in the entry porch of the administration building. One of these open spaces has facilities and furniture for technology, art and science. This mix of open plan areas was designed to let the school achieve its goal of integrated subject learning in which the science, technology, art, language and mathematics of any one topic could be explored at one time with a range of teachers.
The design exemplifies Maori cultural values and enables the practice of whanau (extended family): no walls or doors separate classrooms so groups can interact and work together. The school marae (Maori meeting house and dining hall) is the hub and the heart of the school. Visitors are welcomed in this space with full Maori protocol and ceremony. Food technology is taught in the authentic setting of the marae commercial kitchen. The outdoor environment also reflects traditional Maori learning and crafts with flax for weaving and natural grasses. Traditional Maori patterns are used in paving. All of these design features enable the school to achieve its mission of teaching and learning in the Maori kaupapa (the traditions, language and knowledge of Maori).
The school has been designed to extend the learning philosophy into the landscape. The school motto, “Plant the seed in the young. It will flourish and bear fruit to nourish future generations,” was the catalyst for the environmental design. The outdoor environment aims to link student learning and the buildings to the landscape; provide landscape features that students can interpret and explore in their own ways; create an environment that fosters a sense of ownership and engenders pride in the students, staff and local community. References to Maori fibre arts, maritime navigation and connections with rivers and the sea were “woven” together so that a different theme becomes prominent in each key space throughout the school. These character spaces are each unique, but use common materials and a consistent “warm” materials and colours, including clay, timber and stone.
The school is located under the flight path of Auckland International airport. All buildings are sound attenuated and air conditioned to minimise noise. Other ecologically sustainable development (ESD) measures embodied in the design include storm water collection and re-use, and energy-efficient lighting systems.
At the same time as the major buildings were under construction, the school, in partnership with a community organisation, established a charitable trust to develop a Computer Clubhouse on the campus. This new building, with a prominent location at the front of the site, was successfully integrated into the overall design through the coordination of colours and a similar cultural design brief. The Clubhouse is an after-school, drop-in facility where students go to design and create technology. It is one of a network of 120 Clubhouses world-wide and, at the time of construction, the only one in New Zealand. The school is used by community agencies – police, health workers, and youth support groups use a variety of spaces for meetings and planning workshops. Adult performing arts groups e.g. Kapa Haka groups use both the marae and performing arts centre for weekend-long practices.