McIldowie Partners
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Diocesan School for Girls Music and Drama

Diocesan School for Girls Music and Drama 

In 2005, Diocesan School for Girls commissioned McIldowie Partners in association with Upton Architects to design a 15-year Master Plan which would be delivered in five stages. The music and drama school is the Master Plan's penultimate project, with the performing arts centre to follow, hallmarking the school as a leader in education across New Zealand.

The music and drama school consists of two specialist dance studios, choir room, drama studio, and two music classrooms as well as staff offices and social spaces. This collection of teaching spaces caters for various learning scenarios from one-on-one music lessons to a full orchestra rehearsal space, which are all acoustically designed to respond to each spaces changing requirements. The percussion studio, for example, features a separate floating floor slab that is padded so as to provide complete sound isolation.

To reflect the experimental nature of music and drama, the new school is characterised by a patchwork of materials, colours, stairs and balustrades and inset breakout nooks. It focuses the energy of the building inward toward the central atrium, a hive of activity and collaboration to inspire the exchange of ideas. An abundance of natural light enters the space through the generous skylight and filters down through the various breakout spaces spread throughout the atrium. The dynamic interplay of these spaces across the three floors of the atrium is further enhanced by subtle shifts in angle and the direction of circulation.

The facade of the building is adorned with an aluminum lace screen featuring a leaf pattern. This complex piece of geometry provides a literal interpretation of light filtering through a tree canopy. From a distance the building delights by giving the viewer a sense of movement, as if the external fabric was subtly moving in the breeze. The ethereal beauty of this veil intensifies at different times of the day when the sun reflects off its surface. And the absence of a distinct fenestration pattern offers a sympathetic backdrop to the historic Chapel.