Canberra Grammar School to build New Auditorium, Music Department, and Centre for Learning

Dear CGS Alumni community,

It gives me great pleasure to write to you, in this 90th Anniversary year of Canberra Grammar School, to share with you the next major stage in our School’s evolution: the construction of a new auditorium, centre for music and library at the very heart of our magnificent campus.

As you would know from our 2017 Campus Development Plan, which set out our vision for the decade ahead, much work has already been happening around the School.  That includes the recent development of our new Rowing Centre which opens this term, our new Tennis and Netball Courts, the first of our new boarding houses, and our new Mathematics building, as well as substantial renovations to the heritage areas of the Quadrangle and both our Southside and Northside Primary campuses.  As a consequence, our educational and sporting facilities are currently in better condition than ever, and our campus is more vibrant than I have known it in over thirty years at the School.  

I am especially excited, therefore, to say that our next major project has been made possible by a truly extraordinary gift by one of our own:  former Canberra Grammar School student, former President of the Old Boys’ Association, former Board member, and Patron of the CGS Foundation, Mr Terry Snow AM (’61).

Undoubtedly the largest personal gift to a school in Australian history, Terry Snow’s exceptional endowment of $20 million will give the School an assembly hall and an outstanding concert venue capable of holding the whole of the Senior or Primary School at any one time on the site originally envisaged by the School’s earliest plans for its most important central meeting place.

The project will also include a state-of-the-art new Music Department – housing classrooms, instrumental tuition rooms and rehearsal spaces – plus a modern conception of a library as a facility for reading, research and guided independent learning located above the new Breezeway, in the most spectacular scenic location of the School overlooking the Main Oval.

To view more information on the Auditorium, Music Department and Centre for Learning, see the document: The Next Stage of our School's Evolution.

Terry Snow’s gift also comes with a profound and substantial commitment to the School’s new Indigenous education and scholarship programmes, which will be the catalyst to a major philanthropic initiative by the CGS Foundation to support a range of Indigenous and equity scholarships in the years ahead.  I look forward to sharing more with you in this regard in due course.

As the Head of School, Dr Garrick, said in his message to the community, 'this superb new complex will transform the face and future of our School. It will place mature, independent and guided study, along with the artistic, spiritual and intellectual endeavour of music, right at the forefront of our educational experience. It is the continuation and fulfilment of our School’s fundamental holistic tradition.'

While for many, I know that the existing Breezeway plays an important part in your memories of the School, as it does in mine, the truth is that behind the vines that cover its concrete columns, the current 1960s building has long struggled to serve adequately as the frontage to the School, housing cramped administrative offices and functional amenities in what should be the educational heart of the campus.  Likewise, the War Memorial Hall, which began as a gymnasium, now struggles to fit the School, let alone to serve multiple duties as the Senior School’s assembly, concert, rehearsal, exhibition and examination space.

Addressing these issues respectfully has been essential to the new development, which has been architecturally designed to echo the form and ceremonial functions of the existing Breezeway building, honouring its legacy and place in the traditions of the School.  Largely transparent, the new Breezeway building will open striking views into and out of the Quadrangle, while providing a light, attractive area for functions, a potential café and exhibition space, as well as a path of ceremonial access to and from the Quadrangle across a broad apron overlooking the Main Oval.

As Terry Snow puts it when considering the building from the perspective of an Old Boy with a long involvement in the life of the School, 'This new design does not in any way restrict the visual or physical access of the quadrangle, notwithstanding that the auditorium will be in the middle of the School. The quadrangle will still reign supreme as the centre of School life. I like the way the design retains the Breezeway; and yet, underneath the entrance, all this activity and creativity is taking place, right in the middle of the School, which is very appropriate.'

Maintaining that character has been central to the project, and I am very pleased to see that the design will keep the key elements of the original Breezeway, while enhancing views both into the Quadrangle and out over the Main Oval.  It’s also important to note that the Breezeway’s historic rose gardens will be transplanted carefully in the grounds of the old Headmaster’s Residence, while the Memorial Wall will be preserved and respectfully rededicated just a short distance away in the precincts of the Chapel.

This is an exciting time at Canberra Grammar School, and I warmly invite you to read more about the project in the linked document and in the letter sent to the School community by the Chair of the Board, Mr Stephen Byron (’84) and Head of School, Dr Justin Garrick.

As always, if you have any questions or would like to discuss the project, do not hesitate to give the Community Development and Alumni Office a call on +61 (2) 6260 9606.

Yours sincerely,

Sandy Goddard
Director of Community Development