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A Visual & Performing Arts Centre That Lives Up to its Name

A Visual & Performing Arts Centre That Lives Up to its Name

When Cameron Grindlay of Dwelling Architectural Design was tasked with designing the new Visual and Performing Arts Centre at St Hilda’s Collegiate School in Dunedin, there were many important elements to consider. The building, with its diverse demands, would front a street in an inner-city residential area and needed versatile spaces for dance, drama, live performance, photography, and visual art. Consideration also had to be given to its visual impact in the neighbourhood, minimising any noise generated, and respecting the privacy of neighbours and students.

The underlying design narrative proposed was based on a waka huia - a treasure box used by Māori to hold precious adornments. This symbolises the work created by the students and staff being the precious treasure held within the building. The Centre is a long, raked building made of three distinct sections and horizontal cedar cladding. The building is primarily enveloped in Dimond® Hi Five produced from ColorCote® ZinaCoreTM in Pacific White and Sandstone Grey. Blue painted plywood “carvings” inlaid in Dimond’s vertical longrun DP955® ribbed cladding works to further adorn this waka huia.

When it came to execution, the powerful, yet complex design wasn’t without its challenges. These were superiorly overcome by Ray Ferguson Roofing Ltd. Ray Ferguson says to create these three sections and carvings, “the flashing detail was very labour intensive. It was important to get the measurements correct to achieve a high standard of workmanship”. Because some of the flashings had to fit over and under the timber work, Ray Ferguson Roofing Ltd worked closely with the builder throughout to achieve the Centre’s elegant finish.

Coordination throughout with the builder and architect was also needed to bring to life the intricate detailing of the cladding. “I made up small patterns for the flashings using strips of steel to ensure the flashing would fit correctly before having them made due to the number of folds,” says Ray. He adds, “The large flashings on the front of the building were a challenge due to their size. They had to be lifted off the truck and taken up to the roof manually without them flexing and getting damaged.”

The 780sqm Centre’s long, slender form is positioned along the edge of the site and to maintain the clean lines of the building services to the roof are restricted. The white longrun roofing, the cladding and the cedar cladding sections were carefully chosen to complement the surrounding palette in the residential area. The Pacific White roofing also greatly reduces the heat loading on the building.

To achieve excellent sound in the performance spaces, reduced reverberation in classroom spaces, and reduced sound to neighbours, acoustic and angled wall and ceiling panelling and double and triple linings and roof sarking was specified.

Since the project’s inception, sustainability was at the forefront of everyone’s minds. As a result, every product proposed was first compared to its competitors in regard to sustainability, and only the best products were chosen. Everything from manufacturing processes to a company’s environmental record were taken into account when carefully selecting materials. The use of Dimond® Roofing products was, therefore, a no-brainer, given that Dimond® aims to be the New Zealand leader in sustainable roofing materials. In pursuance of this, all Dimond® products produced from ColorCote® materials meet the criteria for “Level A” certification for the Global GreenTag™ GreenRate™ ecolabel and contribute to GreenStar and Homestar ratings.

The Visual & Performing Arts Centre inevitably won the Architectural Designers of New Zealand (ADNZ) 2020 commercial/industrial award. The judges were especially impressed that the building’s façade was “broken into playful elements, inferring the syncopated rhythm of the different spaces and activities without descending into visual chaos”. This effect was deepened by the limited palette of Dimond® cladding materials so that the “vertical longrun sheets combined with horizontal cedar echo[ed] the vernacular materiality of the surrounding housing stock.”