And Handover Was Duly Achieved: Homeward Bound, 26th August 2016

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.

Groundwork to make the frontage presentable is underway.

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.

The Pupil Plaza will clearly not be in place for Handover Day.

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.

A Northumbrian Roadworks grit dropping lorry and a huge steamroller are just two of the vehicles working on the Carpark on the afternoon of the 24th. It must have been noisy!
The tarmac base for the all-weather pitch has already been laid and the area had been re-fenced with new, more robust metal mesh. The meshing didn’t used to be a bright, shiny green, so this was a huge – and unexpected – improvement.

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.

The cladding looks dazzling in the sunlight.

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.

The wooden slatted Dining Hall ceiling is nearly complete (above) and it is now time to clean all those floor tiles (below).

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.

A long line of bright, white vans and a huge furniture lorry looks very impressive against a glorious blue summer sky.

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!

Although the New Building’s green-tinged glass stairways look lovely, they must have been tricky for the men moving the furniture.

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.

The sofas for outside the Head’s Room had arrived. Sharp eyes may spot a purple chair propping open the door to the administration area (the far end of the Church High Dining Room) which was not there by the time School re-opened!
It isn’t put in place yet, but the Staff Room now has furniture.

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.

All the information display monitors were now also in place.

The New Building was clearly starting to come-together and the combination of its design and modern furniture was impressive.

The new build is a big space.  The scale may surprise some and the corridors are very long.

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.

The cleaning force were NiC Services Group.

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.

Once Peter the Gateman’s domain, the old Junior School entrance to the Tankerville site is now virtually unrecognisable.  I will always miss the natural climbing greenery, but when you and I look at the little boundary wall, we know its little tale of perseverance. Up, down, up, down – but ultimately still there!

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.

A teal-handed person clearly closed the gates!

And the big hole in the original privet hedge was a big hole no more.

Perhaps just a ‘privet-screen’ at the moment, but Nature will have her way.  It will all meld together, eventually.  Most things in life do.

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.

The Handover is Complete: After a photo-call in the new Hall, Wates’ Alan Andrews and Nick White present Hilary French with a beautifully-crafted wooden presentation casket, which now has pride of place in the NHSG entrance foyer.  Inside is a bronze plaque, a booklet detailing the re-fit and also the original Newcastle High/Church High School front-door key.

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!

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