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The Spike or Victoria College Review 1947

New Building

page 23

New Building

'When the gymnasium was first built it no doubt sufficed for the existing needs of the students. But the passage of the years has seen a huge growth in the Association s numbers and activities; what did for yesterday is hardly sufficient for today and will not serve for tomorrow.'

It would be impossible to find anyone to disagree with these words, written by E. G. Budge in the 1934 issue of Spike. Indeed, the delay in constructing the new building caused by the war, together with the rapid expansion of the College Roll since the end of the war have combined to make the Gymnasium more inadequate than could have been considered possible in 1934.

Soon after the opening of the present Gymnasium in 1909 suggestions were made that plans for its successor be considered. It is not the purpose of this short essay to describe in detail the development of these plans, but it is desirable that the present students should have some knowledge of the events of the more recent past, since it will be their responsibility to raise the money required to make the project financially sound.

What can be termed the modern phase in the history of the new building started at the Annual General Meeting of 1935, which instructed the incoming Executive to reconstitute the Building Committee. The new Committee, composed of representatives of the College Council, Professorial Board, past and present students and the Executive, met for the first time in November of that year.

The first consideration was the site, and after a good deal of discussion the site of the present building was chosen. This was duly approved by the Council, and plans were drawn which involved excavation to the level of the tennis courts and the removal of another slice from the hill behind. Various schemes were proposed for raising the money required, but they were not all approved, and no appeal was launched. It was gradually realized that the preliminary plans were inadequate and by 1938 the whole scheme had been abandoned in favour of building on the fourth tennis courts and the piece of land between the courts and McKenzie Terrace.

This plan was not popular with Mr G. F. Dixon, who had been prominently associated with the digging of the tennis courts and was unwilling to see one of them sacrificed, even for a students' building. When the outbreak of war delayed the plan Mr Dixon directed his attention to the possibility of another site on the College property. In 1944 his ideas were presented to the Committee in the form of a plan for a building on the hillside between the tennis courts and Salamanca Road, and extending from McKenzie Terrace to the main doors of the College. This site, which has great architectural possibilities, was soon approved, and attention was directed to the important question of the architect to be commissioned for the work.

This question has had the attention of the Council for the past two years, but no decision has been reached. The only progress toward the building during this time was the announcement in 1946 that the Government had agreed with the suggestion made by a deputation from the College Council and would pay a subsidy at the rate of two pounds for one on the first £20,000 raised by the students. While the initiative and enthusiasm of the Council in obtaining this extra Government assistance is greatly appreciated, it is regrettable that the Executive request for the appointment of the architect should have been treated so unimaginatively.

The attitude of the student body has been clearly defined, and the unanimous resolution from the 1947 Annual General Meeting showed that the Executive were justified in their insistent request for the appointment of Mr E. A. Plischke.

It is beyond dispute that no architect in New Zealand today is as well qualified to design an outstanding building, and one which will bring credit upon the students' Asociation and the College. Mr Plischke had wide experience on the Continent before he came to New Zealand in 1939 and he has brought to his work in this country ideas page 24 which had placed him in the forefront of European architects before the war. Trained at the famous Vienna school, he has built in both Austria and Germany, and his work has been widely photographed and discussed in the architectural press.

To have the opportunity of a building designed by a man of Mr Plischke's vision and ability is the greatest good fortune and the student body should be satisfied with no less. The final decision rests with the College Council where there is already a considerable measure of support for the appointment of Mr Plischke. Until a majority of the Council can be educated to a favourable opinion the Executive would do well to ignore the gloomy prophecies of those who see disaster in any proposal to employ a person born outside the British Commonwealth. This may mean further delay, but it is better to delay than to waste money on a building which is not quite first rate.

When the new Building Committee assembled in 1935 it was thought that five or six years would be sufficient to get the building started. Although the outbreak of war made this impossible it was still hoped to make the opening one of the ceremonies marking the Golden Jubilee of the College in 1949, but the difficulties of building in post war New Zealand soon reduced this expectation to that of laying the foundation stone. Even this modest aspiration has now been abandoned and it is impossible to tell when work will begin.

In the meantime the need is for more money, and until the balance in the Building Fund has been doubled the students of 1947 will not be able to blame the College Council or the Building Controller for the delay.

I. McDowall