Built in 1919, the present Media Centre at Durban High School, is the oldest building on the premises, ‘The Grand Old Lady’.
Today the Media Centre, which received a revamp in 2019, houses fiction and non-fiction books, 20 computers with Wifi and 24 hour access to the Internet and printing facilities for boys and staff. At the entrance to the Media Centre is the Museum, an archive area which proudly displays some of School’s treasures. Portraits of all the past Head Masters adorn the walls of the “Walkway”.
On the lower floor are the School Archives, the IT laboratory and the Swales Online Academy.
Initially the Memorial Hall, and then the Gym when the present D C Thompson School Hall was built, the Media Centre, one of the best School facilities in KwaZulu-Natal, was the brainchild of past Head Master, Mr Trevor Bennison, and members of the School Governing Body at the time. The plans for the Centre were drawn by DHS “Old Boys” who designed a three-level Media Centre within the shell of the old school hall. The beautiful old walls house very modern Media facilities without losing the atmosphere and history of the past.
DHS Old Boy and Architect, Chen Sagnelli, who designed the Centre had this to say in a series of articles in 2019 written by former Archivist, Mr Jeremy Oddy, to celebrate the centenary of the ‘Old Girl’.
“As an Architect I was commissioned to gather and lead a team of DHS professionals in the Architecture, Engineering and Quantity Surveying fraternity to tackle this new venture. As a team we collectively agreed that this beautiful historical building structure would have to be retained and whatever we did, would have to happen within the envelope without affecting or touching this old lady. Essentially we were like surgeons going to operate on the interior of a very old lady who needed some vital new organs that would give her a new lease on life and would project her into the 21 st century with vigour and unmatched excellence.
If you look at the design we came up with which had 3 levels each independent yet connected through stairways. These 3 levels would be supported independent of the outer body of the old lady and the form that came out of the design was the shape of a violin which has a sense of classic elegance. At each level you would be able to look to the level below or above and be part of an overall state of the art media centre. The project was finished in 1999 and was hailed as the top media centre in South Africa.
Today as I write this article, things have changed and the same old lady is going through a number of operations to bring her up to date with the needs of the moment. This beautiful building has some extraordinary history of housing many old boys in various journeys of their school career. The school hall was dedicated to men who lay down their lives for their country and today this ethos has never changed. I can only dream what she could become in the days ahead.”