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Source: University of Otago

The Faculty of Dentistry project (clockwise from top): the refurbished Walsh Building, the Clinical Services Building light well and the atrium linking the two buildings, with the Walsh Building rear façade on left.
Architecture awards have been bestowed on the University’s Faculty of Dentistry construction and refurbishment project and the new performing arts centre – plus a colour award for the performing arts centre.
They were both winners at this year’s Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects’ Southern awards in the education category, which means they are also automatic entries in the national awards that will be announced in November.
The dental project involved constructing a dental teaching hospital and extensively refurbishing the historic Walsh Building for staff, students, and research – while also creating an atrium to link the two, as the heart of the Faculty of Dentistry in Great King Street.
The award citation for the Jasmax-designed project started by saying: “The revitalisation of this existing modernist building acknowledges its pedigree by replicating the geometry of the original curtain wall in a new street façade, while retaining the original facing into the new atrium.
“This atrium – which inserts itself full-height between the existing building and new extension – floods daylight into both interiors.
“Bridges across the atrium at all levels allow orientation and connection between the different parts of the school, while enabling informal chance encounters.
“Intense white surfaces further enhance the brilliance of the interior, while also recalling the ‘whiter than white’ toothpaste commercials of the past,” the citation says.
Then and now dentally
The Walsh Building was the ‘dental school,’ containing patient treatment and teaching areas, but now houses staff offices, laboratories, student spaces, and teaching – so remains ‘home base’ for staff and students. A new Clinical Services Building behind Walsh now provides the patient treatment spaces.
Campus Development Division Director Tanya Syddall says a fierce commitment was maintained to the Category 1 listed Walsh Building while upgrading extensively to reflect advances in construction, technology, and education in the past 60 years.
Heritage New Zealand says the building – opened in 1961 – is “an outstanding New Zealand example of international style Modernist architecture,” providing valuable insight into the development of modern architecture in New Zealand.
“The use of colour and art through sculpture and mosaic as an integral part of the design are strong contributors to the significance of the building,” Heritage New Zealand says.
Performing Arts Centre project (clockwise from left): performers in the main studio, a circulation area, part of the centre’s exterior, the main music recording studio.
Performing arts
The award citation for the Performing Arts Centre in Union Street East says the inspiration for the project was “attempting to capture the integration of music and performing arts teaching”.
“Its essence has come alive in the recording studios, where vibrant colour and acoustic panels in a pixelated arrangement express the technical sonic atmosphere within.”
Placing the studios along the river means the students’ area open out to the north, letting “the energy and music of this new learning space to spill outdoors and enliven the campus”.
The Resene Colour Award citation says: “With orchestrated tones and base notes, this building vibrates with a satisfying palette of colours.”
Then and now performing-wise
The new recording studios building – designed by CCM Architects Baker Garden Architects – helped consolidate the School of Performing Arts instead of staff, students and activities being spread around about 10 locations on campus.
Campus Development Division Director Tanya Syddall says the project also aimed to:
Provide cutting-edge support for everything from a first-year student learning to use a microphone to a doctoral student running complex acoustic experiments
Provide purpose-built studios equipped for recording everything from contemporary bands and small orchestras to solos, and for teaching contemporary music and rock music performance
Provide technology that can create more opportunities for collaborating locally, nationally, and internationally – on teaching, research, performance, and production
This project also included:
Refurbishing the Music Suite in the western end of the neighbouring University of Otago College of Education Music Block, along with the college’s nearby Teaching Wing and Tower Block, and minor work at the Education Resource Centre (the centre’s former campus store area)
Adding a new first-floor circulation area to link the new building to the existing Music Block. The link houses a soundproofed percussion teaching room and is designed to provide areas for socialising, informal interaction, displays and performances.
Adding a ground-floor circulation area to link the existing Teaching Wing with to the eastern end of the Music Block.