The vision of Mountain View School

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Mountain View School in Mangere, Auckland, is engaged in roll growth that includes additional school buildings that have a unique steel structure.

The Ministry of Education considers this to be a landmark project in which the exciting design focuses on ways to improve the delivery of the curriculum, school organisation and management functions, while highlighting the significance of Mangere Mountain to the school and its community. 

Principal Sue McLachlan QSO says the project is called Silasila, “which means to aspire to great heights and far-reaching accomplishments, and let no obstacles get in the way of overcoming challenges to achieve visionary goals.

“The new teaching/learning spaces move away from the rectangular boxes of traditional classrooms. Multiple sloping walls and nine differently shaped environments reflect the individuality of the children and teachers, and celebrate diversity,” Ms McLachlan says.

Archimedia associate director Aimee Lee says the firm of architects took inspiration from Mangere Mountain “and from the principal’s concept of the learning landscape.

“This volcanic cone’s proximity and importance is reflected in the design of the new buildings — three giant boulder shapes are linked by two atriums that provide viewshafts of the mountain. The shapes are powerful reminders of the boulders emitted during volcanic eruptions and have inclined wall surfaces,” Ms Lee says.

“The outward-leaning walls are a reminder to question everything that you might otherwise take for granted. We also undertook a Master Planning process, analysing the whole site and applying urban design principles to ensure cohesiveness.”

The consulting engineers were BCD Group of Hamilton, led by director Blair Currie. The original concept was to use timber for the angled columns, but when the tolerances could not be easily met by timber, the project was re-designed in fabricated structural steel.

Project engineer Alastair Waller of BCD Group says this provided anchor lines for all the walls.

“Because most of the external walls were not vertical, shear walls were not a viable option for bracing in most locations. Where they were applicable, the shear walls have flat steel cross-bracing — Square Hollow Section (SHS) compression-tension ties were used to help provide torsional and drift control,” Mr Waller says.

“The roof structure has an SHS ring beam at the perimeter to provide a strong horizontal truss that ties all of the columns together, while also providing bracing at roof level.

“The architectural requirements around the atrium entries meant that the steel supporting the floors needed to cantilever past the retaining liners. Universal Column beams were used to ensure that enough stiffness was provided.”

The worksite at 81 Mountain Road, Mangere, was extremely tight, obliging the main contractor, Robert Cunningham Construction (RCC), to start from the back and work out towards the road. This presented a problem for cranage.

For the steel subcontractors, Waikato Steel Fabricators (WSF), the rather cramped set down area meant they would have to fabricate the steel and deliver it to the site in the exact sequence that they would erect it. WSF managing director Darryn Jonson explains how his company got off to a quick start.

“All three buildings are multi-sided (7, 8 and 13) and the site is also multi-levelled,” he says.

“Traditional 2-D design documentation would have been difficult and slow. Archimedia and BCD had modelled the steel members in position accurately using Revit software, and both were happy to export their model from Revit in SAT format for us to import into ProSteel.

“Once we had this reference model, we were able to trace the whole building very quickly. This enabled us to produce a bill of materials early in the piece for ordering.

“Before producing shop drawings, we submitted an initial model to the design team for review. The design team was then able to evaluate the connections that WSF had modelled but which had not been detailed in the design documentation. Where necessary, they were able to request changes, so avoiding clashes.

“Robert Cunningham Construction was very proactive with providing information and working with us towards the final shop drawings. The final detailing was the work of David Dimond, a credit to WSF.”

RCC site foreman Ivan Kete was interviewed on site as he was cladding the walls of the third and final building with the same Colorsteel as the roofing for the project, and had only praise for WSF.

“We know their track record so we expect them to deliver well fabricated steel. And we expect their on-site team of erectors to stay on the programme, which they did very well. But most certainly, they got all this right because of the fantastic job they did on the detailing.”

During the building phase, Archimedia and BCD engaged with pupils of the school, answering their questions about architecture and engineering. And from the outset Ms McLachlan has been intensively involved.

“You get only one chance to provide a building that will make the community proud and meet its needs for the next 50 years. Buildings can represent beacons of hope, and Silasila is intended to engender aspirations of working hard together to build a better world by investing in our children as future leaders!”