James Hargest College Library Development

This Library development was the latest project for The James Hargest College who have had a long association with Architects Sinclair Knight Merz. Recent projects at the college had been the administration building and
'E' block, both of which where quite exuberant in their architectural

Design brief

As with many schools of this vintage there were a number of architectural styles present on the campus, the most recent of which are quite radical in appearance when compared to the older buildings.

Of this work the iconic administration building had been regarded favourably. Those representing the school felt the library should display some importance on campus. A contemporary library is the schools information centre and invokes the notion of 'the heart of study'.  It was thought appropriate the library should be perceived to sit collectively with a group of student centred buildings. The project was thus to provide a physical link in students' collective minds of the sports, cafe, library, information and student service areas,  as all being part of “student territory”. This notion was to be reinforced by the student services unit being taken out of the admin/staff area and incorporated in the new complex. 

The original library was housed in a standard ”Nelson” block, and had a number of deficiencies including space, inability to adapt to IT requirements and a variety of environmental problems. To assist in keeping costs down the brief was to retain as much of the old Nelson block as practical. The old library somewhat blocked the route from the main school entrance to those student areas often used by the public after hours.  The site was also strategically located on the western side of the main school quad.
Design statement

The design intention is to “knit” the externally associated visual elements (colour, materials and
forms) of the existing school buildings to a new library building creating a student heart that clearly  belongs to the wider school complex but retains its own status reflecting the central importance of the library, the contemporary information centre, to student life. 

To aid “wayfinding”, a formal entrance gateway was created leading from the schools main entrance carpark.  The gateway composition takes reference from the design of the nearby landmark administration building in form and colour. A pathway then curves around the library sheltered by a glass canopy that is intended to eventually lead to and bind the Hargest Centre, E block and library to create a unified, accessible and covered student centred heart to the school alongside the main quad.

The library frontage was conceived as a bold double height curtain glazed foyer composed together with four columns created to address the western edge of the main school quad. A cultural design solution seemed more appropriate for this college library rather than the recently over used abstracted minimalist design approach.  The built response is a composition imbued with a touch of monumentality raising the status of the library among the collection of buildings bordering the quad. The four columns have been given evocative South Pacific treatment to their capitals bringing a regional connotation of “standing tall” to this place of study. 

Following this lead, the foyer becomes opportunity for art installation. To date the foyer has included two installations,  a mural by resident art teacher Al Pannet and one by local artist John Wishart representing the jaws of a Taniwha (featured in the legends of Foveaux Strait). The latter is positioned to greet those arriving along the pathway from the main entrance. The foyer is wired so that future installations or displays can be electronic.

The core library building has been kept intact but re-clad in Quartz zinc cladding. This permanent, but soft textured, cladding will weather well and adds contemporary prestige to the library along with  the green curtain glass frontage to the quad. The low glare and matt patina that zinc gives the building adds a potent and durable appearance when contrasted with the lightness and transparency of glass.

The eaves have been extended on the library roof to reduce glare through clear-lights and the original skylights were removed. Glare and temperature fluctuations from these sources had been of environmental annoyance to the staff and students as well as a source of leaks.

A low roof pitch resulted from a juggle between maintaining sufficient ceiling height, in the rooms below, while keeping the existing upper windows clear of obstruction.  This has lead to choice and care in the detailing of tray roofing to avoid damming and the risk of water ingress.

The existing mezzanine has been removed from the library interior because it had been a source of numerous problems for library staff and was difficult to service. There is extensive use of internal glazing to enhance sightlines and passive surveillance. The configuration is designed to be flexible, to keep direct UV light away from books, and maintain good surveillance sightlines from the issues desk.

Architects Sinclair Knight

Architect Rob Ansell lead the design team for The James Hargest College working closely with Project Manager Ian Sutherland. Sinclair Knight Merz is a multi disciplinary consultant group represented with branches throughout New Zealand.  Rob heads SKM's New Zealand architectural design group which operates from Sinclair Knight Merz Wellington Office while Ian undertakes project management from the SKM office in Invercargill.  Building services, lighting, fire and structural design for the project were all undertaken by SKM personnel.

The James Hargest College.

Architect: Rob Ansell
Sinclair Knight Merz.                                                                                                      Telephone: 04 914 8429

Project Manager: Ian Sutherland.
Sinclair Knight Merz                                                                                                        Telephone: 03 218 7102

Main Contractor:
Cunningham Building and Construction Ltd.
Telephone: 03 214 1669

Roofing & Cladding Manufacturer:
Calder Stewart Roofing
Telephone: 0800 115 232
Profile: VM Quartz Zinc