St Joseph’s Nudgee College – Treacy Precinct

4 August 2021

Nudgee College is one of Brisbane’s most beautiful examples of 19th century educational architecture. Rohrig’s restoration and renovation of large areas of the original heritage precinct called for exceptional attention to heritage detail as well as meticulous planning to work around the college’s live environment.

This project was a very significant one for the school, both to restore integrity to its historic buildings and to adapt them to the school’s changing needs in the 21st century. Rohrig worked with M3 architecture and within state department guidelines to transform the precinct.

While contemporary elements like lifts and air-conditioning were added, all significant heritage elements were retained or restored. The project involved demolishing a 1970s building and renovating almost 3000m2 of internal floor space in the north, south and east wings of the Treacy building. It also included details like removing and hand-stripping 116 double-hung windows before re-hanging them as they were in the original façades.

The precinct is in the centre of the college’s campus and it was important to retain student access and to allow normal activities to continue in the boarders’ kitchen and dining areas, staff administration offices and the chapel, which were all within the precinct.

Stage 1 – new offices, kitchen upgrades, classrooms and St Mary’s Tower

The first stage focused on renovating the south and east wings of the Treacy building to create staff offices on levels one and two, plus renovations and re-equipment for the kitchen that serves 250 people three times a day. In the east wing, renovations included new learning areas, a 12-bed sick bay with two isolation rooms, and a new plant deck.

Restoration of the distinctive St Mary’s Tower was also part of the first stage. Lightning had frequently struck the cupola over the years creating large holes in the lead roofing and allowing water ingress to the structure below. After engineers’ reports, we replaced two of the four main supporting columns and replaced the copper-domed roof with a modern zinc seam-folded equivalent. The concrete statue of Mary had also suffered over the decades, so we repaired it and gave it new protection.

Stage 2 – building demolition and restoration of original verandas

The 1974 concrete-and-brick Gallagher building was sandwiched between the heritage-listed Treacy and Duhig buildings. Rohrig’s project included demolishing this incongruous building and restoring the verandas and facades of the Treacy building where the two had adjoined.

Demolition of the connecting concrete walkways and roofing had to be completed by hand before the rest of the Gallagher building was removed by long-arm excavator and trucked out.

Around 600m2 of decaying concrete verandas on the Treacy building were removed and replaced by new structural steel and Modwood decking. A total of 205 original wrought-iron lacework panels were removed and restored. Then 171 new aluminium panels were constructed, using the original lacework panels as a mould, to create enough panels to line the new verandas.

Stage 3 – north-wing renovations, contemporary fittings and external landscaping

The final stage involved the internal renovation of the north wing of Treacy, including additional general learning areas, toilets, and air-conditioning for the college’s museum and rugby rooms. The north verandas were also installed.

Outside, more than 4000m2 of exposed concrete was laid between paver bands to create the effect of sunbeams radiating out from the central Mary’s Tower.

The west-facing end of the Duhig building was also rebuilt using original rendering methods to re-create the arches, corbels and balustrading of the original building façade.

Best outcomes during the project and for the future   

The total $10+ million project was completed in 60 weeks, working around the school’s live environment for safety and to allow the college’s operations to continue with minimal disruption.

By preserving the past and anticipating the future, Rohrig has helped Nudgee College consolidate its position as one of Brisbane’s most attractive, prestigious and successful boys’ schools.

“We were thoroughly impressed by the professionalism, open communication and proactivity with which the team took to establish a collaborative approach with our consultants, students and staff until completion. The working relationship between Rohrig’s site team and the College was key to minimising disruptions and coordinating working in a live campus environment.” Peter Fullagar, Principal.

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