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22 September 2022 / Category : School

Atawhai Officially Opens

Atawhai, the new sport and multi-purpose centre at Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, has officially opened.

The McIldowie Partners-designed building includes a state-of-the-art sports court which can be transformed into an events space, a fitness centre and learning spaces.

The project took 18-months to complete and has been brought to life thanks to donations from the school community.

Rangi Ruru Girls’ School Principal Dr Sandra Hastie says Atawhai will transform life at Rangi Ruru.

“The new build is part of the school’s post-earthquake redevelopment plan, and replaces a gym built in 1976 when the school roll was around 480 students. With student numbers now at a maximum of 700, the new gym will not only be a transformational space for students to learn and play sport, but will allow the school and wider community to come together for assemblies, conferences, events and performances.”

As well as the sports courts with mezzanine seating which can transform into an event space, Atawhai also houses the PE, Health and Sport department staff offices, learning spaces, fitness centre, changing rooms and gallery foyer space to display the school’s sporting history.

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The curved design by Melbourne-based architects McIldowie Partners, specialists in designing educational facilities, speaks to the school’s name, which means “wide sky shelter”. The design represents the night sky, and features a statement façade mimicking constellations, which is lit in blue lighting at night.

The name for this building has been generously gifted to Rangi Ruru by Ngai Tahu hapū, Ngāi Tūāhuriri from Tuahiwi. Pāora Taki, who named Rangi Ruru, is buried at Tuahiwi and the iwi still hold his manuscripts and traditions within the community.

“Atawhai means to care and have compassion for people, something this space will provide an incredible environment to do so,” says Dr Hastie.

Construction was completed by Higgs Construction and involved the demolition of several school buildings to clear the site for construction.

Atawhai cost approximately $10million to build with 60 percent of that from fundraised capital. The fundraising effort was assisted by a generous bequest from an alumnae, the late Miss Elizabeth Reid, after whom the gymnasium in the building is named.

“Miss Reid’s incredible gift has left a true legacy which will benefit our students and community for many generations,” says Dr Hastie. “I was fortunate to spend time with Miss Reid before her death, and it was a true joy to get to know her and share with her our plans for the new building.”

The build is the latest stage of the independent Years 7 to 13 girls’ school’s long-term facilities upgrade, named Project Blue Sky. The project was established following the February 2011 earthquakes to redevelop the campus into a leading, modern education facility.

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So far, Project Blue Sky has seen $45million spent on: A new library and information technology services building, named The Gibson Centre; a Science Centre; a social sciences and student services building, named Mana Wāhine; an art and technology building, and a performing arts building.

The heritage-listed administration block, Te Koraha, was extensively restored, as was the playing field and museum. New hard courts and a water-based hockey turf were also constructed.

“These new facilities place Rangi Ruru’s campus at the forefront of educational providers in New Zealand,” says Rangi Ruru Board of Governors chair, Nicki Carter.

“Learning spaces play a crucial role in educational outcomes, and we are committed to creating environments designed to cater not just for today’s students, but for those of future generations, too.”

Atawhai was officially opened in a ceremony today, attended by many members of the wider Rangi Ruru whānau including past principals Mrs Gillian Heald and Ms Julie Moor, architect Craig Brown from Melbourne and mana whenua. Attendees were treated to performances by Rangi Ruru’s kapa haka group as well as the Resolutions choir.