Purpose-built $36 million facility will be unlike any other in Australasia, says board chairman.

Auckland's Diocesan School For Girls is developing a vast new $36 million centre for the arts.

Andrew Peterson, board chairman, said the first stage of the scheme was for a new music, dance and drama building to rise on the school's Epsom site.

Work will start on that next month. Aspec Construction has been appointed as the building contractor.

Funding for the big project has come from the school community, fundraising and long-term financial planning.

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The larger centre, which will take some years to build, will have a 1000-seat auditorium, foyer and gallery for community gatherings, 25 purpose-built performance and lecture rooms and acoustic soundproof rehearsal spaces.

The centre will rise on the site of the existing sports room and the heritage rose garden. The plants have already been shifted.

Principal Heather McRae. Photo / Chris Gorman
Principal Heather McRae. Photo / Chris Gorman

It was designed by what Peterson called Australasia's most expert arts venue architects, McIldowie Partners, in conjunction with Upton Architects.

Peterson said getting the design right was crucial.

"We wanted a performing arts centre that was quite unlike any other and we have found it in this design. There is no other centre comparable to this in Australasia, let alone in a New Zealand secondary school," he said.

Dio principal Heather McRae said the school had a reputation for outstanding choral and orchestral productions and many students had won awards, trophies and medals.

Musically, Dio is New Zealand's most successful performing girls' school and many students undertook further study, winning scholarships to prestigious international universities and colleges, she said.

A number of New Zealand actors and musicians had attended Dio, including actors Danielle Cormack and Kimberley Crossman, film director Niki Caro, Royal New Zealand Ballet former managing director Amanda Skoog and leading set designer Tracy Grant, Heather McRae said.

The design shows a building with columns of steel wings and large panes of glass but Peterson said painstaking attention had been paid to the historical buildings around it, specifically Dio's 150-year-old chapel, nestled next to the arts centre site.

The music, dance and drama building will be sited between the chapel, senior common room building and the science building. But when the much larger arts centre is built, it will extend to replace the old tennis courts alongside the science block.

Access to the main foyer of the new building will be past the chapel.

Construction of the first stage will take up to 18 months. The next stage will be a two-year project and the starting date will depend on a number of factors, including the timing of the academic year.