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Landmark TGS building finally sheds its scaffolding

Flagstaff Team

Front and centre… Work on the main block at TGS is nearly finished, two years after it was expected to be completed

The restoration of Takapuna Grammar School’s main block should finish in just over a month, with interior work continuing on the heritage building’s central tower.

“Seven years on, the building is finally scaffold-free,” said principal Mary Nixon of the recent end of exterior work.

With stonework now pristine and stained glass windows restored, the landmark building has been returned to its former glory – with the assurance of added structural integrity.

“There are so few buildings of this sort in New Zealand,” said Nixon. “It’s also part of the history and style of the peninsula.”

Down the track, she hopes to have a public open day to show the community what has been achieved. Some students had completed their entire secondary schooling with the building under wraps.

What appears from the road to be lighting installed to highlight the stained glass, is actually for construction workers continuing inside, she explained. “Seeing it backlit has made us think maybe it should be.”

Even Nixon, who took the top job at TGS four years ago, has not yet seen inside the renovated central tower. “No-one [other than construction staff] has been up there for six years.”

She is already fielding suggestions for what to do with what was once a draughty board room, with staff vying to use the prime space. It will not be used for board meetings, but ideas include an archive room to house school memorabilia.

The main block is also home to dozens of classrooms, some of which have been reconfigured. Once these are in use, the Ministry of Education will be able to remove a number of prefab classrooms overlooking the rear fields, relocating them to other schools.

The principal and the school’s administration staff, who have been working from offices in other prefabs accessed off St Leonards Rd, will shift back into the main block.

Nixon said she would be one of the last to make the move.

She described the project as “a significant restoration”, that had to factor in heritage considerations, while dealing with weather-tightness and earthquake issues. “There’s an awful lot of extra supports, metal, gone into the building.”

Nixon said she did not know the final costs of the project as these rested with the ministry. Estimates in 2015 had put the cost of restorations to both the main block and the already finished 60-year-old hall behind it, at $26 million.

Work on the main block began in 2014 and was initially expected to be finished in 2018. The project by Woodview Construction brings the building, opened in 1927, up to modern code.

Removal of the scaffolding and prominent signage on the tower ends a running gag about the school’s name being Woodview.

Instead, Takapuna Grammar School’s motto can again be seen clearly etched into the stone: Per Angusta Ad Augusta (“Through endeavour to greatness”).

This article originally appeared in the 11 September 2020 edition of the Flagstaff. Read online here.

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