Marian College has a new campus – at last!

Marian College

Christchurch’s Marian College has a new campus. It’s been a long time coming. In fact, it’s taken a 12-year journey to find the school’s 430 students a permanent home.

The Catholic girls’ school will leave its Barbadoes St base at the end of the year. It will then move into its new location on the former Foodstuffs distribution centre site in Northcote, on the northers side of Christchurch.

The $50 million purpose-built school sits under a giant warehouse roof. This design is believed to be the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

Principal Mary-Lou Davidson has already moved into the new school.

“It’s a unique build, so most people are quite surprised” she says.

“You can’t see much from the outside because of the warehouse structure, but once you come in it’s remarkable.

“And so most people are completely blown away by it.”

Post-earthquake shuffle

This is the second big move Marian College has had in just over a decade.

The school first moved from its original Shirley site after it was damaged in the 22 February 2011 earthquake.

It’s “temporary home” on Barbadoes St was to accommodate the girls and staff for the next 12 years.

A longer-term solution was found when the Catholic diocese bought the former Foodstuffs centre in Northcote. The diocese decided to retrofit a two-storey school into the giant warehouse.

Not an easy job

Armitage Williams Construction’s managing director Ben Harrow admits the project was complex. He says it took five years to plan and design, and another two to build.

“We’ve had eight key managers on the project from Armitage Williams, and they’ve been working on it from day dot.

“For them it’s quite emotional to hand over a project to a client because it’s been their home for the last two years, but they’re stoked.”

Centrepiece chapel

Davidson said the chapel is the centrepiece of the new school and harks back to the school’s origins. It features a large cross made from the wood of an oak tree that grew at the Shirley site.

The chapel’s star-lit ceiling represents the night sky on the day the school officially opened in 1982.

Besides the chapel, the new school boasts 26 classrooms, a full gymnasium, four multi-use indoor courts, a performing arts theatre, an outdoor courtyard and sports fields.

Many of the Marian College students live in the north of the city.

“Our brother school, St Bede’s, is just down the road and St Joseph’s Papanui is next door. We have a lot of students come from North Canterbury, so that feels like home already” Davidson says.

Once exams have finished and the Barbadoes St site is no longer needed, the Bishop of Christchurch Michael Gielen will reclaim it as office space.

The new Northcote site is set to be officially opened in February, in time to welcome students back for the new school year.


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News category: New Zealand.