From the Resene News - issue 4/2016
From the Resene Total Colour Awards gallery of entries
Tarawera High School in Kawerau was formed by amalgamating Kawerau College and Kawerau Intermediate School and was founded on the existing Kawerau College site. It was RTA Studio’s role to help facilitate this ‘turning of a new page’ by improving the existing accommodation and providing a new teaching/learning facility for Kawerau.
The starting point was a dilapidated campus of buildings that made no acknowledgement of the surrounding landscape, nor the cultural importance of the 90% Maori school role. Through a collaborative process that involved extensive school and community engagement, the masterplan focused on a school that puts community and cultural facilities at its heart, that orientates itself to its natural taonga and whakapapa and provides an ‘advanced modern learning environment’.
Typically with 90 pupils per classroom in open plan learning spaces, an ‘advanced modern learning environment’ includes a variety of well‐connected spaces through the use of new building materials and technologies. It allows for a variety of teaching pedagogical practice, and specialist teaching spaces with technology and equipment suitable for a multitude of subjects and disciplines and provides spaces which can be utilised by both the school and the community alike.
The new buildings are planned and orientated along critical ley lines which are significant to the local community. The Wharenui (the heart) faces directly north to where the Tarawera River meets the coast. Communal facilities include the Wharenui, Performing Arts Centre, and Hospitality Suite along with the School Reception and are placed around an open courtyard which is accessed directly via the school’s main entrance. Aligned on this entrance is the ley line from the local culturally significant mountain – Putauaki, which forms a backdrop to the school upon arrival. This axis also aligns to the north‐west towards Maketu – an important historic landmark – which forms a street between the senior and middle school Learning Houses.
The buildings open onto large veranda areas and spaces that can be used for outdoor learning, performance and sporting activities. The buildings have been designed as a total sustainable solution from their orientation to the northern solar gain to passive ventilation, natural daylighting, rain water harvesting and solar panels.
Four key elements of the area’s history, culture and natural environment were identified:
Inspiration for the colour selection at Tarawera High School relates back to these core design concepts and draws directly from the colours found in the local landscape.
The colour scheme was used to enhance and showcase the architecture:
This project won the Resene Total Colour Nightingale Award and the Resene Total Colour Education Award. The judges commented: "A school is often the heart of the community, and this project exemplifies that, bringing the local environment and community into the school. The colour selections reflect the rich surroundings with the colour used to enhance and create a meaningful engagement between home and school, and community and school.
Playful without being predictable; cheeky pops of colour work in seamlessly with natural materials. The colour of each building has helped create a personality for each, bringing them together to create a complete family as a school. The colour is applied in different ways to each building, so that each truly has its own identity within the whole.
Easily identifiable, sensitively and extremely well put together, this school embraces colour wholeheartedly."
Architectural specifier: RTA Studio
Building contractor: Marra Construction
Client: Ministry of Education
Painting contractor: Cantec Services
Photographer: Patrick Reynolds
Project manager: RDT Pacific