Light is the only thing we can see. Rays of light disturbed by the properties of surfaces. The image we perceive is the end product of every ray hitting our retina at that one moment. The rays have come from different directions, travelled different distances and may have reflected off many objects before hitting our eye. Just as the view through my old classroom windows is now altered, in the old Church High building, the way light falls inside is being changed. Because of this, to quote Thomas Hardy, things are ‘the same, but not the same.’
To extend is the act of creating more time, space, or length. The extension the part added to something to enlarge or prolong it. The Newcastle High School building has changed in this way numerous times over the years (in the 1920s, 30s, 50s, 70s, 80s, 90s and either side of the Millennium). Old light sources closed up: new ones being opened. Its interior an ever-changing chiaroscuro of light and dark.
The new glass-fronted circulation extension will clearly allow the entry of a lot of light. Yet, despite this, some rooms will now be darker. Today old Room 9 is completely ‘light-locked’ and the west elevation of the 1930s north end extension has totally disappeared. The building’s footprint has not altered. This extension is all ‘in-fill’.
This is in no way a criticism of the remodelling of the building in this area; it’s a clever use of space and the views from the Headmistress’ Office and the two newly-created classrooms will be spectacular.
The new structure was really ‘coming on’ when I visited the site on Wednesday 13th August. I arrived at a time when Peter was free and because of this I gained an unexpected ‘mini’ tour. Once again Peter said, “Where do you want to go, Madam?” and once again I said, “Old building.” The new extension was just right for the time. I was really pleased with the photos I took that day, but, thanks to Giuseppe, I can now supplement them from different perspectives. And as I’ve said before, Giuseppe gets to places Christine cannot go.
I’ve always loved skylights. Open ones have been used in architecture since Roman times and the glazed variety since the Industrial Revolution. Because of this, my favourite room in the Church High building was the ICT Suite (formerly the Library) where daylight flooded in from four angles. The circular skylights ‘made’ the room.
Once again yesterday someone new to the building said to me how much the building had been ‘lightened’ by the white walls. I always smile politely. It depends what you mean by ‘light’, I guess. I’ve never thought of the Church High building as dark and white walls always seem to make rooms flat and two-dimensional to me. On my tour today, when I realised the ‘port-holes’ in the old ICT Suite ceiling were being blocked up, I couldn’t believe it. There must be a reason for it, but the divided room is now a shadow of its former self.
Thanks to Giuseppe again, I got to see what was happening above us that day. I think a new flat roof will son be laid and the modernised teaching rooms will all have suspended ceilings, but it’s still a shame. The building brief is that there should be no difference at all between a teaching room in the new or old building – in any way. But we can’t escape ‘The same but not the same’ here too it seems to me.
Do you remember the vent for the Hall delivered to the site recently? Although I didn’t visit the main corridor on April 13th, Giuseppe.cam allows me to show you that they are now installed.
The new staircase is being boarded out at the moment. As it’s totally enclosed, the stairwell will always require electric lighting, I think.
As the video slideshow at the end of this post will show, there was a lot of activity on the very top corridor today. The lovely, evocative eaves room has now been boarded off completely, presumably for posterity, and the last of the dormer window units were being fitted.
It was unusual to see what looked like a painting and decorating table in place where two guys were focussed on a piece of metal.
Always curious, I asked what they were doing. I’ve learned a lot that way. They directed me to the open window behind them. Looking out it was instructive to see the lead being fitted in the roof gullies.
This area under the eaves is destined to be the Sixth Form Library. It’s going to be one of the nicest remodelled places in the building. On the floor plan below, this is the area coloured blue. The old eaves space has been left white, as has the new staircase and circulation space. The converted ICT Suite and new classroom are in peach.
I’m hoping that adding some floor plans will make orientation in the slideshow tour a little easier – especially as a lot of this is new space. I basically start at the new north side entrance, briefly photograph around me in the old Dining Hall area and then head for the stairs. It won’t take long before the new glass extension seems like it’s always been there. For now, it certainly shows the ‘Old Girl’ in a new light.