Opening Up A Doorway In A (Literal & Proverbial) Brick Wall, 2nd June 2016

The Romans dedicated the month of January to Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time.  He is usually depicted as a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past.  In my last chronological posts, you may remember I’d hit a ‘brick wall’ with regard to getting on-site and had become reliant on Giuseppe and ‘undercover’ help.  But, as so often happens, what had seemed ‘the end’ was only the beginning of another phase of my story.  For as Randy Pausch said: ‘The brick walls are there for a reason.  They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.’

I returned to the site after work on June 2nd, unable to keep away.  Once again, there was no need to break my word because others knew how much it meant to me.  Doorways.  Gateways.  Much the same thing.  And the doorway to the site is the Gateman, of course.  At the end of the day when the site was finally quiet, Peter, Wates’ Gateman, volunteered to act as my ‘undercover’ man number two.

Peter Wilson poses with one foot on another brick wall breached that day. They kept rebuilding it, but those delivery lorries are big!

Doors, walls and floors were very much the theme that day on site.  The first photo Peter took was to show how the work was advancing on a new side door for the Main Building.  As you know, the original Newcastle High building had an entrance door in its north elevation.  However, it was blocked up when the 1933 extension was added.

Oliver & Lesson’s original 1888 architect’s drawing of Newcastle High School’s north elevation (Tyne & Wear Museums).

Now that easy access to the new build will be needed, a north door is being reinstated again by Wates.  The only way to do this was to create an opening somewhere in the side wall of the bin store.  As EWA architect’s aim was to ensure optimum circulation around the building, the obvious place for the door was at the north end of the bottom corridor.  The result of this?  A direct hit on one of the ‘holes.’

The three architectural ‘holes’ in the side brickwork were designed to allow light into the bin store (Proposed plans for the 1952 2nd Floor Library extension on top of the 1933 building work: Newcombe & Newcombe: Tyne & Wear Archives).
Clever architectural design from EWA means that the entrance porch for the new side door will now have a semi-circular arch above it like all the other doors in the old building.
Peter’s photo of the original features retained at the other end of the bottom corridor, including the arched side doorway.

Giuseppe’s photographs from that same day show us the work that was going on inside the new doorway too.  As seemed to be happening everywhere else in both buildings, flooring was in progress.

In the new building as well as at the end of the bottom corridor in the old building, Latexplan Trade levelling compound was being laid.

New entrance doors had also been installed in the re-styled LRC too.

The new double doors in the much smaller one-level LRC will allow a smooth transition into the centre courtyard.

New interior doors had clearly been recently delivered and were now positioned all over the building ready for joiners to hang.  Some of these doors were a pale wood such as the one waiting to be hung on what at the time was destined to be Michael Tippett’s Deputy Head’s Office at the north end of the first floor corridor.  The room next to it would soon become Room 18 where I’m timetabled for all my lessons this year.  Both rooms have been formed from the north end of the social and working staffrooms.  A good place for me to be.

Once the north end of the staffroom and the old photocopying room, the room on the right will now be my teaching classroom at NHSG.

On the top corridor, which will now be the Sixth Form Library and study area, the doors propped up against the walls were teal green.

Teal green doors will be fitted on the top floor.

The area of the building which remains virtually unchanged is the first floor main corridor with its wonderful original woodwork.  Even though nearly two years have now passed since we said goodbye to the building as Church High, those familiar doors are still dark green.

The main corridor with those wonderful old doors remains virtually unchanged. Nice to see the doors are still dark green.

As I’ve said before, the main changes on this corridor are the lack of Room 5, my old teaching classroom, and also the old north staircase.  The stairs are now just off the north end of the main corridor to the left in the new infill extension.  As Peter’s photos show, there is still clearly some work to be done there.  It still looks like a building site!

There is clearly still a lot of work to be done on the new stairs.

But it did all get finished in time, of course.  And since I am writing this post in January and its god Janus looks both backwards and forwards, I thought I would include a picture of the same view now.

Six months down the line, the new  north staircase on the last day before we broke up for Christmas.  So nice to see Zoe Robinson’s wire sculptures around the building once again.

And what was I doing all the time Peter wandered the building with my camera on June 2nd?  Well, I didn’t exactly build a willow-cabin at the gate, but, like Patience on a monument, I did spend the time happily enjoying all the greenery outside of Peter Wilson’s cabin.

‘She sat like patience on a monument,/Smiling at grief.’ (William Shakespeare: ‘Twelfth Night’, Act 2, Scene 4)


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