by Sue Nesbit

The Demise of L Block

L Block was originally B Block but was given its new designation by Senior Master Ian Wilson late last century. In 1957 when the School first opened, B Block contained the original single classroom Library with books on loan from the National Library Service.

In 1960, Mrs Joy Collins from the New Zealand National Library Service was appointed as the Shirley BHS Librarian. This led to her collaboration with English teacher Peter Smart in Stories for You, an abridged version of popular non-fiction for less able readers. As the School roll grew, the Library was enlarged to include two further classrooms.

The re-built library was officially opened in 1985 by the Minister of Education, Russell Marshall. In that year, too, Mrs Collins retired after 25 years and Mrs Catherine Thomas was appointed as the new Librarian. In 1989, the library joined the Computer Age with a Commodore PC and microfiche reader. Then, in the early 1990s, the area became a ‘multi-discipline Resource Centre’ not just a room full of books. By now Information Technology was entering the classroom. The block also contained the Art Rooms as well as boys’ toilets.

The area was redesigned in 2000 to follow the semi-circular Bauhaus frontage of the new Art Suite in B Block. This created additional Library workspace while the old Art Rooms were turned into a two-classroom ICT Suite.

As HOD Art Mr Murray emphasised, ‘breaking away from the older, conventional school design on the buildings fronting the quadrangle gave the feeling of light and space inside and outside and softened the hard lines of the former Main Quadrangle.’

By late Wednesday 7 October 2015, the eastern and western ends of L Block had been demolished, offering a view of the football field and the hockey pitch.

Graunching, screeching, crunching, grinding, the huge arm of the Canterbury Demolition digger, with its bucket as open-mouthed as a hungry dinosaur, gobbled up loads of debris but left five of the seven Bauhaus-designed columns standing like a mini-Stonehenge.

L Block soon disappeared into 18-wheeler Kenworths which rumbled out through the Averill Street gate, leaving behind the pervasive smell of old plasterboard as well as, for some, 57-year-old memories. Yet it was not all smash and crash. Quietly behind canvas screens, twisted steel trusses were bring gas-cut into manageable lengths while a few metres away, the First XI practised at the nets in the warm afternoon sun. Life continued unabated.