Historical Significance or Value
KETC is of significant national historical significance. First advocated in 1888, it was the second earliest technical school in the country. It is a significant example of the themes and patterns which represented the development of technical education in New Zealand. For over twenty years it was also the largest example. Indeed the School represents the national pattern of increased numbers undertaking secondary education and symbolises the government’s increasing role in technical education.
The Art School tells another historically significant story. It is associated with the life and works of a wealth of uniquely talented artists and art teachers, including Toss Woollaston, Rodney Kennedy, Colin McCahon, Doris Lusk, R.N. Field, and Gordon Tovey. These artists inspired a unique and exceptional contribution to New Zealand’s cultural and educational landscape. The School was also associated with a wider group of national art schools, although in terms of its rare and unique contributions only Elam School of Art came close in comparison.
Aesthetic Significance or Value:
KETC sits on one of Dunedin’s main arterial routes. From its prominent hilltop site it surveys the length and breadth of the city and, beyond, the harbour and sea. Its imposing and impressive brick frontage creates an aesthetic appearance of strength, solidity and enduring quality. The design of the Art School and its corner site give the building a prominent and aesthetic appeal.
Architectural Significance or Value:
Prominent local architect, Harry Mandeno, designed the impressive three buildings fronting Stuart Street. His contribution to Dunedin’s architecture is a notable one, including the Dunedin Town Hall. His partnership with Fraser established one of the most sought after architectural practices in the city.
The Art School building was designed by Government Architect John Mair. He was responsible for most of the government buildings erected in New Zealand. His designs saw a departure from revivalist styled public buildings to modern architectural precepts and construction methods.
The impressive size and bulk of KETC lends it a landmark status in the city. Neo-Baroque and Georgian Revival motifs soften what could be an institutional impression, thus providing a classic and elegant façade. The ceil de boeuf windows, breakfront lines and other classical elements elevate the building from an educational establishment to a grander architectural building all together. The Art School is of a different architectural style, yet its simple refined lines work well with the earlier structures, and a 1930s translation of ceil de boeuf windows are a nod to the earlier motifs. The effect is elegant and classic.
Scientific Significance or value:
The Technical School included courses in the sciences, including chemistry and physics. Students went on to contribute in the scientific field, most prominently Joseph Mellor one of the most noted inorganic chemists of his generation.
Social Significance or Value:
Otago settlers valued education. One of the finest examples of the importance placed on education was the formation of the Dunedin Technical Classes Association. It was this citizens’ association which single-handedly provided less privileged youth with a means of continuing their education and improving their situation in life. It was also these prominent individuals and businessmen who responded to the developing international trend which promoted the need for technical education. They provided technical courses so ably that the government was required to put state run technical education in place.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
KETC represents a number of important aspects of New Zealand history. It is an example of citizen initiated programmes which lead to nationwide change. The School represents also the growing importance placed on access to continuing secondary education for all, not just the wealthy. Most significantly, KETC represents the international trend towards technical education and providing opportunities for unskilled youth. So ably and successfully did they implement technical classes that the cause was promoted throughout the country and the government eventually incorporated technical classes into mainstream education.
Even though KETC’s final home in Stuart Street was built after a number of other New Zealand technical schools, its origins date back to one of the two earliest attempts at technical education in the country. Its example helped prompt other centres in New Zealand to establish technical schools. Although a number of technical schools remain throughout New Zealand, KETC’s original buildings have not been modernised to any great extent. They still embody the original design philosophy as well as contemporary educational philosophies on technical education.
The Art School reflects the history and development of New Zealand art and its teaching. The School’s distinguished students and teachers founded New Zealand modernism, changing the country’s artistic and cultural story. Training under internationally renowned teachers, artists grew to develop their own unique artistic voices.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
KETC is associated with important historical ideas including continuing secondary education for all students and the importance of technical education. The School is also important as a springboard for exceptional artists including, including Toss Woollaston, Rodney Kennedy, Colin McCahon, Anne Hamblett and Doris Lusk.
The School is also associated with prominent individuals and noted businessmen. The School’s wings are named after Thomas Kempthorne, prominent chemist and businessman, and G.M. Thomson, founder of the Association and first Superintendent of the School. Burt Hall is named for the Association’s longstanding Chairman and influential businessman Alexander Burt. Other notable historical figures associated with the School were Bendix Hallenstein, Rev. Rutherford Waddell, and one of the School’s earliest and most internationally prominent prodigies, Joseph Mellor.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:
KETC grew out of a group of individuals’ belief in the importance of continuing education for all and the in the value of technical education. These individuals successfully formed a community association which included some of Dunedin’s most successful businessmen and local politicians. The community supported their cause in two important ways. Firstly, the city’s youth took advantage of the opportunity furnished by the classes. Lack of space due to increased rolls was an ongoing challenge to the School. Secondly, the public continued to financially support appeals to support the School and to upgrade its facilities. Public subscriptions enabled the School to buy a building in Moray Place and later financially supported the erection of the first KETC.
Community esteem for the School continued to be evident. For example the Joseph Mellor restaurant, which provided a valuable training ground for chefs, was a popular and economical ‘night-out’. It connected the Polytechnic with the community, and garnered public esteem.
(f) The potential of the place for public education:
KETC has the potential for public education. Its continuing use as a public space, though privately owned, lends itself to interpretive display panels or tours. Historical pamphlets on the history of the School and technical education would be informative as would brief biographical notes on the notable founders, teachers and students.
Summary of Significance or Values:
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e, and f.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.
KETC has a special position in the history of technical education in New Zealand. The complex of imposing structures retains a high degree of integrity, creating an appearance of strength, solidity and enduring quality. Neo-Baroque and Georgian elements combine with a restrained elegance to create one of the city’s landmark buildings. KETC was not only the second earliest technical school in New Zealand, but also the largest for over two decades. Community support for the School, evidenced in growing rolls and ever-increasing space problems, was manifest from its earliest days. This support for the international trend towards technical education first found its voice in a small community association, but such was the success of the venture that the outcome was comprehensive, nation-wide, state-run secondary education. The School’s story extends, however, beyond the development of technical education to its association with important historical figures, including architects Harry Mandeno and John Mair; scientists G.M. Thomson and Joseph Mellor; businessmen Alexander T. Burt and T.W. Kempthorne; and perhaps most significantly uniquely talented artists such as Toss Woollaston, and Colin McCahon.
The story of KETC is vast, encompassing the earliest efforts of Dunedin’s founding fathers to follow international trends in the provision of educational opportunities, to the development of mainstream technical education in New Zealand. The building stands as an architecturally impressive monument to their efforts. Many founding businessmen, staff and students made significant contributions on a variety of local, national and international stages. KETC’s story makes a special contribution indeed to New Zealand’s historical and cultural landscape.
Timber – red pine, jarrah, oregon
Settlement of Dunedin:
Maori were the original inhabitants of Dunedin, known as Ōtepoti, which encompassed several fortified pa sites within its boundaries, including Huriawa, Mapoutahi, Pukekura and Puketahi. The only central Maori settlement, once on the coast but now in central Dunedin due to reclamation, is believed to have been in use as late as 1785 but was unoccupied in the 1820s. By 1848 when the European township was established, Maori were a small minority of Dunedin’s population and ‘in the new play about to start, the Ngaitahu... soon found themselves dismissed from centre stage’. During the 1850s the population grew only slowly. It was the gold rushes, beginning in 1861, that transformed Dunedin. Its population nearly tripled by 1881. As it grew in population and wealth, the city began to invest in public works, religion, and education.
The origins of technical education in Dunedin:
Technical education in Dunedin dates as far back as 1857 when evening classes were held in the Mechanics Institute. Various short-lived attempts at technical education were held over the next few decades. These classes generally failed due to a lack of financial backing.
Internationally, technical training was gaining status. In 1881 the City and Guilds of London Institute was established. Technical education was also gaining prominence among educationalists. Professor Gibbon from the University of Otago, noted in 1888 that ‘[i]n the course of the present century a great awakening has taken place in the public mind as to the importance of education...[and] the importance of a thorough scientific and technical education for all who are intended to fill the positions of managers of works and heads of manufactories has at length been admitted without question...’ . The Otago Daily Times took interest in the cause but did not support it. By November 1888 however, and following an Australian report on technical education, the media had joined the campaign. A feature article noted technical education was practiced in 1000 schools in Sweden ‘with admirable ‘results’ ’, and had also been introduced in France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Russia and the United States. The need for technical education was proclaimed in Britain as ‘the one cure which is to regenerate the flagging industries of Great Britain, [and] is constantly urged in the old country’.
On 16 October 1888 ‘a meeting of gentlemen interested in education’ was held in a committee room of the Town Hall to hear a paper by G.M. Thomson on the establishment of evening classes in Dunedin. Thomson read that the ‘chief and primary object of the scheme here advanced is to provide for this large class in our midst the means of following up the education they have already received...[E]very gain in the educational advance of the units of the community would be of value to the community as a whole.’ While Thomson’s scheme was primarily a means of continuing education, he thought it ‘may be made the basis on which a technical institute may be built’. Thomson went on to argue that ‘the most casual observer in passing through the streets in the evening cannot fail to be struck with the numbers of young men and lads, who, for the lack of better occupation in their spare hours are chiefly engaged ‘killing time’, an occupation pernicious alike to the individual and to the peace and safety of the community...[to] ‘safeguard our social privileges...to eradicate or at least suppress that curse of larrikism...we must devise means not only of occupying wisely the spare hours of our young people, but of directing their attention to higher aims and objects...’ The meeting resolved that a committee be appointed to consider the matter and to bring a report.
At the following meeting on 15 November, the resolution was adopted: ‘That this committee recommend the formation of a society for the promotion of the education of the youths of the city by means of evening classes.’ The name of the society was ‘The Technical Classes Association’ and would offer subjects in literary, scientific and manual categories. The syllabus was based on that of the City and Guild of London Institute. Students would pay fees to attend the classes, held from 7 until 9 in the evenings, from April to September. Dunedin luminary Alexander Burt (1841-1920) became the first chairman, and among the first teachers was the noted Rev. Rutherford Waddell. Other identities included Rev. A.R. Fitchett, David White, Hon William Stewart, J.H. Chapman, Rev. Dr Stuart, Thomas W. Kempthorne, Bendix Hallenstein, and the Hon. James Allen. G.M. Thomson was not only the Secretary of the Association but the first Superintendent. The Association later wrote that the ‘work inaugurated in Dunedin in 1888 has now been taken up in various centres throughout the Colony from Auckland to Invercargill on the lines of this, the parent Association.’ It was a momentous day in New Zealand’s educational history.
The Dunedin Technical School:
Second only to the Wellington School of Design, Dunedin Technical School classes began on 1 May 1889 and were held in the rooms of the Normal School in Moray Place. The total number of students enrolled was 204, with arithmetic attracting the most pupils. Indeed, so many applied that several students were refused entry.
By 1892, the Association’s annual report stated that the ‘success of the association’s work has secured recognition from the Government, so that we may now consider that the purely experimental stage of our work has been passed and the society now stands on an assured basis. The attendance of pupils at the classes has far exceeded the expectations of those who first started them’. By October 1892 the total enrolled was 364 and the Government was funding the Association pound for pound money received via subscriptions.
By May 1893 a second site on the corner of Union and Great King Streets was leased for carpentry classes. This property first carried the name the ‘Dunedin Technical School’. In 1895 it was noted that accommodation was a problem, particular as the buildings were only leased. Interestingly while subjects which continued regular schooling (such as maths and English) were still part of the syllabus, the more technical and manual subjects were coming to the forefront.
By 1897 the School was affiliated with the City and Guilds of London Institute and students sat the Institute’s exams. The School now catered for 550 pupils and providing suitable premises was challenging. That same year, due to the financial support of the Otago Education Board and the Kaitangata Relief Funds Trust Board, the Dunedin Technical School was able to lease the premises of Anderson and Morrison in Moray Place. Public subscriptions later enabled them to buy the building. This three storied building was the second technical school from 1898 to 1913.
In 1900 Thomson resigned as Superintendent. Teacher, scientist, educationalist and politician, his contribution was perhaps best summed up by a former student.
I cannot too warmly thank you and the Committee for what you have done for me, and what you are doing for others. As a result of your labours you have developed in me an appetite which is ever-growing. It is not exactly the amount of knowledge one gathers in your classes, but it is the love for it which is engendered and developed - I speak from experience.
This student, Joseph W. Mellor (1869-1938), was an apprentice bootmaker who took advantage of the Technical School’s evening classes. He thereafter embarked on a career as a world-renowned chemist, ceramist, and director of the British Refractories Research Association, becoming the foremost inorganic chemist of his generation. Indeed his reputation is on par with that of Ernest Rutherford’s in physics.
The venture had now grown to such a magnitude, and encountered such financial and accommodation problems, that it was clear that no free association of citizens could found a stable technical institute. Their success intimated that a new branch of education must be created and placed under the education boards. The pressures of demand brought by students and industry’s demand for skilled workers heavily influenced the development of government policy and in 1900 the Government passed ‘The Manual and Technical Instruction Act’. In June 1902 the Association transferred its property and authority to the Otago Education Board. The Association remained as a management board along with representatives from the Board and the City Council.
Within a year, Right Hon. R.J. Seddon, Minister of Education, changed the playing field. He granted free places in technical classes. Enrolments jumped from 775 to 1036 and the buildings became completely overcrowded. The Government now appeared duty bound to provide buildings and so the Board of Managers approached Seddon to obtain permission to utilise a site at the corner of Stuart Street and York Place, for the proposed Technical College. The site was an education reserve which had originally housed the Middle District School. This school evolved from the Dunedin School, the first school in the fledgling settlement. When the Dunedin School moved around 1862 from an old church to a brick building erected on a site at the junction of Dowling Street and York Place, it became known as the Middle District School. When Dowling Street was lowered by the City Council, the structure became so unsafe that it had to be taken down in 1878. The educational reserve had remained vacant. The Board of Managers now asked Seddon for the use of the reserve and for a sum sufficient to erect a structure which would become the nucleus of buildings designed to be the School of Art and Design, Continuation School and Technical College. The proposal was put on hold.
In 1907 afternoon classes were begun to cater for demand. In 1909 the Association opened the School to full-time day time classes with Angus Marshall as principal. Full-time teachers were also appointed.
Although the School had undergone some alterations, overcrowding was a problem again by 1910. The Board of Managers decided a new school on a new site was required and the idea of the Stuart Street site was resurrected. A deputation to the Government secured the offer of financial aid. If £5000 could be raised locally the Government would give an equal grant, as well as a subsidy and the proceeds of the sale of the old building.
The Board held a competition for designs for a building to cost £20,000 which was to be ‘an ornament to the city and a local memorial to the late King Edward VII’. An alleged breach of the competition’s rules caused some ill feeling amongst local architects and controversy in the media. Finally in 1912 the contract was let to Harry Mandeno. He was instructed to design a three story building so as to ‘furnish the city with what is undoubtedly the finest technical college in the dominion.’ This was Harry Mandeno’s first large commission and he continued to be the architect of choice for the new King Edward Technical College (KETC). Mandeno and Fraser became a highly significant firm of Dunedin architects, and their later designs included the Dunedin Town Hall and the Central Fire Station.
The tender was duly advertised, closing on 23 September 1912. The building was to be completed in sixteen months, with the workshops ready for use within twenty weeks. After some controversy, the tender was given to William McLellan. As both the architect and builder were controversial choices, they were ‘determined to prove the excellence of their work...No pains were spared, even in the smallest detail...’ McLellan proved ‘disturbingly efficient’ and money was required before the Board could find it. The old building would not sell for the proposed value, so the Board had to beg a bank overdraft, ask the Government for additional funding, and launch another public appeal. A. & T. Burt, the Board Chairman’s plumbing and electrical engineering firm, also allowed its contract to remain unpaid for an unspecified period.
The foundation stone was laid by the Prime Minister, Hon. W.F. Massey on 20 March 1913. In his speech Massey said it was a ‘red-letter day in connection with educational matters...[it] was intended to be the principal Technical College of the dominion...youths educated in Otago had gone out to other centres in New Zealand and, in almost every walk of life, had taken a leading part in the affairs of the land...’
By September 1914 the King Edward Technical College was finished. The school had a three-storey frontage, one wing and a workshop. The wing was named in honour of Thomas Whitelock Kempthorne (1834?-1914) a manufacturing chemist and prominent businessman. He was an early member of the Association and a financial benefactor. Together with the Kempthorne Wing, the main building was F-shaped. Together with the workshops the building formed a square P-shape. The elevation facing Stuart Street was 274 foot long and the depth was 126 foot. The foundations were concrete. The walls were double pressed bricks ‘in every respect the best bricks obtainable’. The white parts of the walls were finest quality Oamaru stone. The roof of the main building was covered in Marseilles tiles, the workshop roof was covered with blue asbestos slates, and the flat rooves were to be 22 gauge galvanised iron.
There were three entrances; a central public entrance way accessed by Timaru blue stone steps, and one either side for girls and boys. The main entrance was through wrought iron gates into a portico and then through wooden double doors into a vestibule tiled with the name of the School. The vestibule was ten square feet with a panelled dado of figures red pine and oak. The ceiling was fibrous plaster. On the interior, most of the timber was red pine. This included the tongue and groove (T&G) flooring. The structural timber, however, was jarrah or oregon. The doors were of oregon, apart from the Board room, offices and library doors which were red pine. All interior walls were finished in plaster. The corridor and stair case dadoes were coloured with English Oxide of Iron.
From the vestibule, through double wooden doors, was the main corridor which ran the length of the building. From this corridor was access to the central staircase to the first and second floors, and also the workshops at the rear. Although the workshops were contained in a separate building they were only some 36 to 40 feet from the centre of the building and linked by a corridor. At either end of this central corridor were separate boys and girls staircases leading to the boys and girls classrooms.
The administration area and offices were situated on the ground floor to the east of the vestibule. The teachers’ staff room and library were on the first floor directly above the vestibule. There was also a social hall on the first floor, measuring 62 feet by 32 feet.
Each floor was intersected by a main corridor, ten feet wide, which ran the whole length of the School. It was laid out in separate departments with connecting classrooms, which were described as ‘bright and airy, and special attention has been paid to light and ventilation…the windows, all of which, contrary to the usual custom, are guaranteed to open’. The building was also heated by hot water radiators. The School’s departments included engineering, mechanical engineering, science, domestic science, dressmaking, and commercial work (including English). The workshops at the rear of the building were for carpentry, blacksmithing and plumbing. They were ‘elaborately equipped’.
The newspaper recorded that:
[t]he building, by virtue of its great size and general appearance, forms a striking addition to the architectural features of the city and an imposing landmark which cannot fail to impress...The freshness of the new brickwork and the neat appearance of the white facings make it unquestionably a handsome edifice, and one in which all residents of this city should take a just pride.’
The newspaper also reported that ‘there are indications that the accommodation will be fully occupied from the opening of the school.’
While the contract price was set at around £30,000 with the building to be finished in two years, McLellan finished the build five months earlier and brought in the final costs slightly below tender. The public contributed £8885 to the total cost, offering ‘very tangible evidence of the generosity of the people of Otago...’ and the esteem with which the project was held. By October 1915 the school was clear of debt.
The next step was to build an Assembly Hall which was ‘to be used in conjunction with the physical development of the pupils’. Evening classes would also use the Hall. The Government agreed to subsidise the project pound for pound. Architect Harry Mandeno was again selected to design the building and plans were readied in 1917. William McLellan again won the tender. He constructed the Hall at a cost of £420.
Appropriately, the building was named after the Chairman of nearly 30 years, Alexander Burt. The Burt family donated a bell and a 3 by 1.5 metre stained glass window featuring the New Zealand and English coats of arms.
Burt Hall was opened on Friday 30 August 1918 by the Minster of Education, the Hon. J.A. Hanan. In his speech he noted that modern education philosophies agreed that ‘[e]ducation had to be provided for the cultivation not only of the head but the hand also’. In support of the importance of technical education, he added that there ‘was a feeling that we should ‘learn by doing’.
The Hall was connected to the main building by a raised temporary gangway. Its exterior was dark red pressed bricks, rather than double pressed, with diamond-shaped embellishments. Most of the timber used was red pine, including the doors and stairs. Door frames and casement windows, however, were picked heart totara. The flooring and ceilings were T&G. Its exterior reportedly had ‘a very neat and attractive appearance.’
In the interior the eastern end of the basement floor had a compact swimming pool measuring around 25 feet by 16 feet, with a depth of four to six feet. The pool was for those pupils who were not sufficiently confident to use the public baths. The ground floor of the Hall also formed a shelter, with gas jets and sinks, so that the pupils could bring lunch and make hot drinks. The first floor contained the main hall which was 100 feet long, 47 feet wide and 30 feet high. It also contained a stage and two small dressing rooms.
By April 1919 1290 students were enrolled at KETC. By 1922 there were 1816. Additional space was required. In 1922 Mandeno’s designs for an additional wing were approved and in December he was instructed to invite tenders. The December Board Meeting also decreed that the Wing would be known as the G.M. Thomson Wing in honour of his efforts on behalf of the School and to mark his recent retirement from the Board.
Tenders closed on 10 February 1923 and McLellan again won the tender. The contract dictated that the ‘contractors shall carry out their work so as to be in strict conformity with the finishing both inside and outside of the existing building...’. The build was to be finished ten months from the acceptance of the tender but inclement weather, however, delayed the fulfilment of the contract.
The exterior was constructed from double pressed red bricks to match seamlessly with the existing building. The design was English Garden wall brick bond using cement mortar. The stone work was in Oamaru stone. Timber included jarrah joists, plates and lintels. The outer door was a four panel kauri door on a solid totara frame. The windows were a mix of jarrah, totara and redwood. The glazing was Flemish glass. The roof was covered in Marseilles tiles.
The existing gangway linking Burt Hall to the main school was taken down and a new gangway was erected linking Burt Hall to the rear of the Thomson Wing. The frame was jarrah, and the balustrade and decking was heart totara.
The interior walls were finished in plaster and the ceilings in fibrous plaster board. Most interior timber was red pine, including picture moulding and T&G flooring. Jarrah was used as structural timber. The exterior doors were kauri; the ground floor interior doors were oregon. All other doors were red pine. The window sills were jarrah and the casement sashes were totara.
The Wing included storage on the ground floor which ran only half the length of the building. The first floor, which connected to the second floor of the central block due to the slope of the land, contained rooms for carpenters, cabinet makers, engineers, and painters. Also included were cloak rooms, dressmakers’ rooms, a teachers’ room and library. The second floor, which connected to the third floor of the central block, contained rooms for chemistry, physics, general classroom and labs.
Dunedin Art School:
In April 1935 the Board first planned to extend its site so that three of the four boundaries (Stuart Street, York Place and Tennyson Street) would be covered with school buildings, leaving open areas in the centre. In 1937 the School expanded on to the Tennyson Street frontage for the first time. The new addition was the Dunedin Art School.
The Dunedin School of Arts was founded in 1870 when the services of David Con Hutton were secured by the Otago Education Board. It was the first in New Zealand. His duties were ‘the teaching of high school pupils and girls with leisure in the day-time, and school teachers and young artisans in the evenings’. Classes began in the Stock Exchange building and then to the Normal School when it was erected in Moray Place. From the beginning of the Technical Classes Association (TCA) it worked closely with the School of Art, with Hutton charging lower fees to TCA students. The sudden death of the principal, Robert Hawcridge, in 1919 placed the school’s continuance in doubt and no classes were held in 1920. In 1921 the Art School was officially incorporated as a department of KETC. For ten years the Art Department moved around various areas of the main building. In 1937 the purpose-built Art School was opened on the corner of Tennyson Street and York Place.
This School became the springboard for a whole new generation of New Zealand’s most influential artists. They formed the first cell of indigenous modernism. Lessons included modelling, art crafts, art needlework, landscape, design and poster work. Among the first pupils to enrol in 1937 was Colin McCahon. Other students included Anne Hamblett, later McCahon’s wife, Doris Lusk and Patrick Hayman. Prior to the erection of the new School, Toss Wollaston and Rodney Kennedy had also attended art classes at KETC.
These eminent artists were highly influenced by the art teachers who were well-known artists in their own right. W.H. Allen and R.N. Field, brought to the College through the La Trobe scheme introduced New Zealand to British post-impressionism and heavily influenced both McCahon and Woollaston. It was Field, in particular, whose reputation saw artists visit from all over New Zealand in order ‘to discover the vision that was informing Europe and contributing so much to the modern world’. Other influential teachers included Gordon Tovey, Frank Staub, J. D. Charlton Edgar and Helen M. Moran. The impact of the Art School, particularly during the 1930s and 1940s, was extremely significant both in providing new ideas and in the students it influenced. Although there were a few other art schools in New Zealand, including the prominent Elam School of Art, it has been written that no other art school in the country was held in the same regard.
The Art School building was partially funded by a substantial grant from the Government. As the project was in the hands of the Public Works Department, the plans were designed by the Government Architect, John Mair (1876-1959). The Board’s architects of choice, Mandeno and Fraser, were apparently retained only to organise the site and design the retaining walls necessary for the erection of the School.
From 1923 to 1941 Mair was responsible for most of the government buildings erected in New Zealand, many of them involving significant departures from tradition and precedent in both style and construction methods. During his tenure, modernist architectural precepts displaced the revivalist styles favoured for public buildings in the past. Construction methods also began to utilise concrete and structural steel instead of brick and timber. These construction methods were in evidence in the plans for the Art School. The Board, however, was in favour of brick in keeping with the original portion of KETC. In response, Mair convinced the Principal of the justification for a building framed in wood with well-concreted foundations, steeltex and plaster walls with a tiled roof.
Sketch plans were ready by August 1935. The design was of an impressive entrance and two-story building on the corner of Tennyson Street and York Place, and a one story wing running down York Place. Tenders for the Art School were called for in May 1936. The successful contractor was D.A. O’Connell & Co. The Head of the School, Tovey, was responsible for internal fittings.
The School included nine classrooms, mostly with dimensions of around 30 x 26 feet, and several offices. The interiors were lined with tentest wallboard. The entrance was impressive and lined in black tiles. One of the classrooms which remains largely unaltered indicates the nature of the classrooms. Steps ran the length of the room, gradually descending to a curved teaching area. The steps are wide providing plenty of room for an artists and their easel.
On 5 March 1937 the first three classrooms of the new building were used. The School was officially opened on 22 March by the Minister of Education, Peter Fraser. It was said that there were ‘nine beautiful, sunny rooms. Well equipped and exhibiting the most modern of lighting…[The School] will fill a long-felt need in the life of the community, and should inspire fresh interest in artistic creation’.
The Latter Years:
KETC continued to confront problems of overcrowding. By 1943, three quarters of children went on to further education. As a result, most city secondary schools were overcrowded. In 1948 an extension to the Art School was opened. The Marlow building was KETC’s new domestic wing. It was named after J.J. Marlow who had served on the Board of Managers and was a former chairman. In November 1959 the specifications for an extension to the Domestic Wing, named the Patrick Building, were released. The newest addition was to contain engineering workshops and classrooms. The architects were, once again, the firm of Mandeno and Fraser.
In 1956 B.I. Fulton became the College’s new Principal. He sought a distinction between the evening classes and the high school. In 1963 the change was made. King Edward Technical College became King Edward High School. The evening technical classes were taken over by a new educational institution, the Otago Polytechnic. The three buildings on Tennyson Street became the property of this new Polytechnic. The Polytechnic utilised the 1937 Art School as offices, a Library and classrooms. The Patrick Building became the site of the training restaurant named after Joseph Mellor. For several decades, the Joseph Mellor Restaurant was a popular and inexpensive restaurant frequented by members of the public. In later years part of the 1937 Art School, which ran down York Place towards the main block, was utilised also by the Hospitality Department. It established Café Brie, where baristas and chefs gained practical experience.
In 1974 KETC was disestablished and Logan Park High School was launched in its place. The main block was utilised by the Polytechnic until a new campus was established. It retained use, however, of the three buildings on Tennyson Street until mid-2009. The buildings were put up for sale and in December 2010 they were bought by the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin for Kavanagh College, which is situated directly across the road. The College is looking at moving their administration offices into the former Art School.
After the Polytechnic’s departure, KETC and Burt Hall were sold to private owners. It is now known as King Edward Court and its rooms are leased to a number of community groups.
From a citizen-led initiative to a twenty year record as the country’s biggest secondary school, KETC holds a prominent place in the educational history of New Zealand and its children.
Henry Thomas (Harry) Mandeno (1879-1973)
William McLellan (1878-1965)
John Thomas Mair (1876-1959)
D.A. O’Connell & Co
Physical Description and Analysis:
The Original KETC:
King Edward Technical College (Former) is located on a prominent position on one of Dunedin’s main urban arteries. Its impressive size and bulk give it status as an imposing landmark building in the city. A small garden and concrete, brick and iron fence soften the institutional face of the building. One architectural writer noted that it is a fine example of an educational building not now in favour and is an excellent example of its kind.
The style of building is Mannerist with neo-Baroque elements, such as ceil de boeuf window windows. KETC was built during an era, sometime called Georgian revival, when there was an international swing towards rectangular shapes and symmetry. The style was restrained and simplified classicism. It featured regular repetitive fenestration. Plain wall surfaces of fine face brickwork with classical elements such as orders, porticoes, pediments and aedicules were used for emphasis. The roof was of simple configuration. The building also featured stone trim. The KETC building exhibits all these features.
The front elevation facing north east to Stuart Street is three stories high and rests on concrete foundations. The exterior is red brick and Oamaru stone. There is English Garden wall brick bond below the first floor string course and stretcher bond above. Features include Oamaru stone quoins, pilasters, open, pediments and various detailing including ‘King Edward Technical College’.
The front of the building exhibits a breakfront feature, where the line at the front is broken or interrupted. Either side of the central portion recedes to provide the main entrance way with added grandeur. The receding walls feature six sets of paned double-hung windows of vertical proportions on all three stories. Atop the second and fifth sets of windows are additional Oamaru stone detailing. At either end of the Stuart Street elevation the building steps out again.
There are three entrances to the Stuart Street block. The main entrance is in the middle of this elevation, accessed via a staircase of Timaru bluestone, wrought iron gates and a tiled portico. Jutting out from each edge of the elevation are small porches providing less grand entrances to the building. One was for the boys and the other for girls.
On the York Place elevation the original block joins the 1924 Thomson Wing. The Thomson Wing is initially three stories high but due to the slope of the ground becomes only two stories for the last half of the elevation. Where the buildings join there is some stone detailing and the nomenclature ‘G.M. Thomson Wing 1924’ as well as the motto and shield ‘Learn & Labour’ atop the building. The join was carefully done and the red brick walls and tiled roof flow seamlessly between the two buildings.
Linked to the rear of the Thomson Wing by a wooden bridge is Burt Hall, which juts out from the main building on a 45 degree angle towards York Place. Burt Hall was built in stretcher bond with ornamental diamonds of contrasting bricks and cement dressings. The Hall is two stories high and presents an aesthetically imposing face in its own right. Honouring the style of the KETC central block, it features ceil de boeuf windows, a breakfront elevation and Oamaru stone detailing.
A concrete path runs the length of the rear, north west elevation of Burt Hall, and continues on passed the rear of the Thomson Wing and the rear of the workshops. The length of KETC’s rear south west elevation is dominated by the two-storey workshop building, which features a number of double external doors. The roof is tiled in asbestos blue slate tiles and features cupola chimney pot domes which have been removed from the roof of the main building.
The south east elevation is dominated by the Kempthorne Wing which was part of the original building. It is three stories high. While the elevation is aesthetically and architecturally unremarkable, the views from the windows in this elevation offer a sweeping vista of the city and the harbour beyond.
Essentially the elevations form a hollow rectangle. The buildings combine to form courtyard spaces in the middle, which provide access to driveways, storage spaces and the boiler.
The main entrance is up a stone stairway, through the portico and through double wooden doors into the vestibule. It features wood paneling and a decorative plaster ceiling. The tiled floor features ‘King Edward Technical College 1913’. There are three wooden doors leading variously to what was once the Directors’ Room, the Director’s Office, including a safe, and to the office. The Principal’s office was later relocated to the other side of the office, originally the Commercial room. The impact is imposing and aesthetically pleasing.
Through another set of double wooden doors is a corridor running the length of the building. The interior is more institutional with little architectural detailing. The doors are wooden with simple panel detailing. The walls feature a concrete dado and the ceilings are generally undecorated. The corridors are covered in lino. The classroom floors are generally carpeted. The workshop floors are concrete or wooden T&G. All rooms and corridors have regularly spaced diamond air vents. These are now largely blocked over as they are a source of draughts and dust.
The ground floor corridor is divided at each end by wooden double doors with opaque glass panel surrounds. At the south eastern end, through the double doors, is the Kempthorne Wing, built at the same time as the central portion. It runs south west towards Tennyson Street. The Wing included an entrance for boys, via a small entrance porch, and classrooms and workshops relating to ‘male interests’. The girls’ entrance was at the opposite end of the corridor. This end of the central block was the domestic wing.
Returning to the vestibule, another corridor runs at right angles to the main corridor and connects the rear of the central block and the front of the workshops block. The workshops corridor is simple T&G and provides access to three workshops, originally the engineers’ workshop, the furnace and forge, and the plumbers’ workshop. It also includes a simple wooden staircase which leads to the first floor workshops, which originally included the cabinet makers, pattern makers and carpenters’ workshops.
Returning again to the corridor in front of the vestibule there are two staircases. The staircases are concrete, tinted red, with red tiles at the outer edge of each step. The banisters are a simple wooden rail, with high wire caging. It is said that the caging was not original but added when a pupil fell over the banisters to her death. On the landing halfway between floors the staircases merge and then separate in the opposite direction. One flight leads south west to the first floor workshops. The other flight of stairs leads south east to the first floor classrooms. At the top of these stairs, set back above the entrance way, are three wooden doors. The room in the middle was originally the teacher’s library, with teachers’ staff rooms on either side. The walls have now been removed and it provides a large manager’s office. The rooms feature wooden paneling and ornate plaster ceilings. The spaces are large and sunny with views over Stuart Street and beyond.
The first floor corridor leads to the first floor of the Kempthorne Wing at one end and provides the first internal access to the Thomson Wing at the other. The additional space afforded by the Thomson Wing is not large but provides additional classroom space and leads to an external door opposite the Burt Hall baths.
Returning to the first floor staircase, single staircases lead up to the second floor, connecting again at the landing. The second floor overlooks the workshop roof and provides access to the Kempthorne and Thomson Wings. This floor originally housed the physics and chemistry rooms to the east and general class room to the west and centre. The feature rooms on this level are again set above the entrance way. Again the windows are large and impressive and the ceilings are decorated. Again the wall between the rooms has been removed and it is now used as a party room, available for hire.
As of 2010 most of the rooms are rented out. Even a toilet block has been rented to the Fortune Theatre as a laundry. Classrooms are variously rented to artists, sports clubs, dance schools, musicians, teachers, businesses and those requiring storage.
The Art School:
The Art School is located on the corner of York Place and Tennyson Street, with a wing which runs down part of the length of York Place. It is not physically connected to the main KETC block. On Tennyson Street, it is connected to the Marlow building via an archway.
The Art School’s design and corner site gives the building aesthetic appeal. It features white concrete walls on a rust red foundation. The roof is tiled. Like KETC it features paned double-hung windows of vertical proportions. The style of the building is restrained and simple, particularly exemplified in the single storied classroom block which runs down York Place. The remainder of the building is two-storied.
The Art School’s entrance on the corner of York Place and Tennyson Street is an aesthetic highlight. The entrance way is reached by a simple flight of stairs and was probably once tiled. It features the date 1937 and a translation of the ceil de boeuf windows featured in the KETC building. From the entrance the building advances outwards similar to a bay window. The effect is striking. The remainder of the building, which steps down in three blocks down Tennyson Street, returns to simple and restrained lines.
Through the main entrance doors is a small vestibule. It may have originally been larger but offices were later created in the space. Offices are on both sides of the corridor. Beyond the administration area is a staircase, with a short flight of stairs down to the single storey classroom block which runs down York Place. A longer flight of stairs leads up to the second storey.
Moving in to the single story classroom block, there are two classrooms. One consists of a large space where the wall between two original classrooms has been removed and a cafe kitchen added to the rear of one of the classrooms. This space was utilised as Cafe Brie, a public cafe used for hospitality training.
The classroom at the end of the block remains largely unaltered. It contains five steps running the width of the room, each 120 cm wide, descending to a teaching area. A manhole in the steps allows access to the basement below. It reveals, along with artists’ crayons littered in the dust, poured concrete piers, and walls of no fines concrete. The boards are diagonal and the floors are T&G.
Up the original staircase to the second floor, there is a long corridor and a number of classrooms. There is also the former Polytechnic library which is a bright space with large windows overlooking the corner of York and Tennyson Street. These rooms appear to have been redecorated in the 1970s and any original features are now hidden behind this outdated decor. The corridor slopes gently down to join the Marlow Building.
28th March 2011
Report Written By
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
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Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin
Rosemary Entwisle, The Dunedin School of Art and the La Trobe Scheme: exhibition 20 May-5 July 1989 : an account of the school in the first decades of this century and a catalogue of works in the Hocken Library by T.H. Jenkin, F.V. Ellis, W.H. Allen, R.N. Field, J.D.C. Edgar and G. Tovey, [Dunedin], Hocken Library, University of Otago, 1989.
Hardwicke Knight and Niel Wales, Buildings of Dunedin: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to New Zealand's Victorian City, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1988
Erik Olssen, A History of Otago, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1984
Otago Daily Times
Otago Daily Times
18 May 1985
Progress: News from the Parliament Buildings Strengthening & Refurbishment Project
Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
McKinnon, Malcolm, 'Otago places - Dunedin', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/otago-places/6, accessed 10 Mar 2011.; 'Mellor, Joseph William, C.B.E., F.R.S.', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/1966/mellor-joseph-william-cbe-frs/1, accessed 19 Dec 2010.; 'The School of Art, Dunedin', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,
Apperly, Irving & Reynolds, 1989
Richard Apperly, Robert Irving, and Peter Reynolds, A pictorial guide to identifying Australian architecture: styles and terms from 1788 to the present, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1989.
A fully referenced Registration Report is available from the Otago/Southland Area office of NZHPT.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.