Diocesan School for Girls - Aquatic Centre
Patrick Reynolds

Diocesan School for Girls - Aquatic Centre

McIldowie Partners as Architects

In 2009, leading education architects McIldowie Partners helped to create one of the most innovative school aquatic centres in the Southern Hemisphere. To this day, the “Diocesan School for Girls Aquatic Centre” remains New Zealand's benchmark for adaptive and sustainable sporting facility design.


Melbourne-based architecture firm McIldowie Partners has a proud legacy within the education sector. Throughout its 70-year history, the firm’s design sensibility has been tirelessly fine-tuned. The practice’s scrupulous attention to detail has ensured the educational buildings and facilities it touches remain functional and timeless.


One of its most tactile projects was the ​Diocesan School for Girls Aquatic Centre ​in Auckland, New Zealand ​. ​At the time of completion in 2009, the facility was the only school swimming pool of its kind. And just how unique could a swimming pool be you ask… well, quite. Nearly 10 years on, the aquatic centre and all its inclusions is still a showpiece of infrastructure.


The pool itself began life outdoors in the 1960s as a concrete-lined hole in the ground. Its function was simple: to provide students with a means for water sports. After 20 years of use the swimming pool got a refurb, and nearly 30 years later it was transformed to an award winning, state-of-the-art facility. To achieve this metamorphosis, McIldowie Partners thought outside the standard box. But first it had to recalibrate the master plan so the pool could stay in its original location. The pool sat opposite the oldest heritage-listed building on campus, and a stand of significant mature trees adjoined the building site. Two key features requiring equal measure of heritage and environmental finesse.


McIldowie Partners Director Craig Brown was also project director for the aquatic centre and said the process from start to finish was almost a scientific journey. “We were given creative licence to redevelop a basic pool facility, so we seized the opportunity to engineer an indoor aquatic centre with a timeless aesthetic and mechanical genius,” Craig lamented.


With the master plan signed-off, the school was left with an elegant colonnade and curtain glass wall facing the ‘School House’ Administration (heritage building) and a stepped transition from glass and timber to zinc and precast concrete on the street boundary adjoining the mature trees. McIldowie Partners’ project team used sustainability as a key driver in the design process and disregarded convention. The use of an air blanket was incorporated into the design to help prevent heat loss from the pool.


“Surrounding the pool with a double-glazed ‘atrium’ meant the school would save significantly on energy use,” Craig commented on the sustainable status of the project.


Other energy efficient design features included: · rainwater collection tanks used to top up the pool and for toilet flushing · solar heating of domestic hot water · recovery of heat from water drained from the pool · recovery of heat from return air via air conditioning ducts · double-glazing and low-E coatings on all pool windows


A safety innovation was the installation of a variable pool floor. This mechanism enabled the bottom of the pool to be raised or lowered depending on the age-group of pool users. It’s the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.


“The pool’s flooring system was imported from the Netherlands, it used a buoyant polypropylene floor system that was pulled down using cables connected to hydraulic rams in the basement,” Craig said.


McIldowie Partners continues to work within the education sector to advance the capabilities of buildings and facilities used by students. And the firm’s design culture continues to inspire clients (old and new) who benefit from a forward-thinking, traditional architectural experience.


The Diocesan School for Girls Aquatic Centre project was awarded the ​Excellence Award in the Education & Arts category of the NZ Property Industry Awards ​ in 2010. The project also won the ​Commercial Engineering Excellence NZ Wood Timber Design Awards ​ in 2009.

Diocesan School For Girls - Aquatic Centre

Variopool as Variable pool depth

A movable floor or bulkhead increases the flexibility and functionality of any competition, hydrotherapy, public pool as it allows one single pool tank to accommodate several activities simultaneously or at varying depths. The reference list of Variopool includes over 800 installed movable pool floors and bulkheads found globally in some of the world’s most famous aquatic centres and pool accommodations.


WHAT ARE THE KEY BENEFITS? Integrating a movable floor in a swimming pool offers a lot of benefits. The system is fully automatic and is really user friendly for the pool staff. This ensures the functionality of any swimming pool by being able to quickly alter the water depth to suit any user group or activity. For example, at the touch of a button one single pool tank equipped with an adjustable floor can be transformed from a shallow children’s pool into a 5 meter deep pit for the local diving team. A movable floor can be retrofitted into a pool very well.


So also in the Diocesan School for Girls. In this facility Variopool installed a movable floor in the main (competition) swimming pool. In this school it will be used for a lot of different activities. The pool can be lowered to a depth of 2 meters for sports such as water polo or Aqua Jogging, and raised for learn-to-swim classes. Depending of the activity you can bring the floor up or down to the depth which is needed.

Music & Drama Centre

Upton Architects as Architects

Music, drama and dance education is proven to nurture a child’s development. In fact, research has found that learning these creative subjects helps students excel in other subjects and can even increase a child’s IQ[1].

 

Auckland’s Diocesan School for Girls is acutely aware of the benefits of integrating the arts into the student learning experience. The school recently completed their exciting new Music & Drama Centre, which is unsurprisingly located at the heart of their campus.

 

Architects McIldowie Partners and Upton Architects wanted to celebrate the school’s award-winning music, drama and dance programmes by designing a new creative home for students.

 

“The school’s Music & Drama departments were excelling in their standards of production and performance, but both were accommodated in facilities well below the Diocesan School standard, in adaptively reused buildings,” says Craig Brown, Director of McIldowie Partners.


“While the classrooms were not hindering education outcomes at the time, the school identified the need to enable a high-level delivery of these important subjects well into the future.”

 

The new building accommodates music practice rooms for soloists, ensembles, orchestras and choirs, and sprung-floor performance studios for drama and dance troupes.

 

Acoustically-isolated recording and percussion studios are wired into the performance spaces to professionally capture and engineer the music produced.

 

Internally, each windowed doorway offers glimpses at the activities within the rooms, inviting curiosity and ambition. Every student can aspire to be in the band, the orchestra, the chorus.

 

Externally, the building design is a deceptively simple three-storey form that sits alongside the school’s splendid Chapel of St Barnabas, built in 1854. The Chapel’s choral legacy is now embodied by its new neighbour. McIldowie Partners and Upton Architects carefully created a contemporary design respectful of the heritage-listed Chapel.

 

The architects wrapped the building in a gently faceted ‘curtain’ of perforated aluminium lacework, reflecting the rhythm and movement of music and drama. This subtly undulating veil shifts in tone and shade throughout the day, cleverly filtering the harsh western sun through an intricate woven leaf pattern.

 

The Music & Drama Centre is the latest stage in the school’s 15-year masterplan, prepared by McIldowie Partners and Upton Architects in 2005. The building is a key component of Diocesan School for Girls’ continued development of young, world-class musicians, actors and performers.


Product Spec Sheet

ElementBrand
Insulated roof panelsKingspan Group
Ceiling panelsAsona
Variable pool depthVariopool
Product Spec Sheet
Insulated roof panels
Ceiling panels
by Asona
Variable pool depth
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