My personal record of the Tankerville buildings’ renovation process is now complete, but there was still a small section of time remaining before Handover, when the site was awash with last minute activity. So, for one last time, Giuseppe’s camera eye can tell that little tale. Besides, this was now the penultimate full week of the Summer Holiday and, as I would already be going into School the following week to unpack crates and get settled in, I had no desire to be there at all. In the interim, a great deal was accomplished on site during those last four days. Inside both of the buildings and also in the grounds.
In the courtyard at the back of the Old Building, since the paving had been completed long ago, only a washdown with a hose was needed.
However, a lot of work still needed to be done to the large paved area between the Old and New Buildings, the so-called Pupil Plaza. Giuseppe shows us there were no paving stones in place there at all, even at this late stage, and the bike stand was only just being fitted.
From Wednesday 24th, Northumbrian Roadworks Ltd. had been very much in evidence on site, various machines working at full-throttle laying down tarmac for the Carpark – which is in the same place it used to be – and for the base of the all-weather sports pitch.
As you already know, the application of the New Building’s bronze cladding turned out to be an extremely long and drawn out affair, but I was still surprised to see there were still small sections being put in place during the very last week of the job – on the underside of the entrance over-hang. I think the sourcing of this high-cost, high-quality metalwork played a part here. Finished, it looked great.
Inside, the wooden ceiling of the Dining Hall was very nearly complete and was looking wonderful. This whole re-fit process has involved an awful lot of give-and-take. In this instance, a lot of wood having been removed from the Old Building in the strip-out stage, as we know too well, I wasn’t expecting so much of it in the new build.
Once all the flooring was clean, it was time for the furniture to be put in place. If you’ve got keen eyes, you may have spotted that the sofas and material-covered, circular teal and grey stools for the informal seating area to the left of the entrance door were already stacked up in one corner. For a big, big lorry was already at the door.
I am always in awe of the fitness of removal men. The things they have to carry are often very, very heavy and, however well-designed buildings may be, one doubts an architect takes into consideration the demands of moving fixtures and furniture in and out when they design their building. No doubt stairs will be an occupational hazard wherever these guys work, but at NHSG there was a lot of glass too!
The new school was designed to include what the architects called ‘break-out areas’ throughout. This is the reason why what most people would consider the key feature of a school, library study spaces, are smaller than they were. The seating purchased for these areas features built-in mobile device plug-in ports in the arms. In the Old Building, there’s an area like this outside the Head’s Room.
Each of these break-out areas also has its own information monitor. Church High folk will remember there was eventually a veto on self-posting of notices on the walls of the building. A rule which was always broken with abandon when Year 11 and Year 13 left, it has to be said. In the new NHSG, there are not even noticeboards in public areas. It’s a Wi-Fi age and notices for clubs, etc will show on screens.
The New Building was clearly starting to come-together and the combination of its design and modern furniture was impressive.
At this time, the building was still littered with bits of white paper. This is how Wates communicated the work that still needed doing.
The readiness of both buildings ultimately depended on a small army of cleaning staff who worked steadfastly behind the scenes. Anyone who has ever moved house, never mind having building work done, will know just how much dust and detritus is generated. Where does it all come from? With a renovation on this scale, it shouldn’t surprise folk to hear that the cleaners were with us for quite a while.
Back outside once again, everything was being made spick and span. Machinery was loaded up onto lorries for the very last time, the pavement was swilled clean, the perimeter fencing buffed to a shine, the exterior planted areas all tidied up and the new signage erected.
Outside the Old Building, the frontage was being given back what estate agents refer to as ‘kerb appeal’. The bin store beneath my old desk may still be a bin store, but it now sported new wooden gates.
And the big hole in the original privet hedge was a big hole no more.
However unlikely it may have seemed at times, Wates did get their Handover to GDST on that afternoon of August 26th, 2016. Which meant that, finally, the remaining Church High staff and I would be completing a hard-won full circle as we moved back into Tankerville.
Whilst on the subject of full circles, it seems fitting to end this post in exactly the same way. Can you recall the opening image at all? Well, behind those two men in hard hats, the front door is still very green!