The former Canberra High School building in 1949-1950. Photo courtesy of ANU Archives.

The former Canberra High School building, now ANU School of Art Building, in 1949-1950. Photo courtesy of ANU Archives.

From air raids to the arts

Thousands of students have roamed the corridors of one of Canberra's oldest education institutions but there are many hidden quirks to the School of Art Building, as SIMON JENKINS uncovers.

There is a part of campus untouched by modern Canberra. As glass-fronted public service buildings tower above the brutalist Llewellyn Hall, the art deco flair of one of the city's original buildings continues to inspire students.

Constructed primarily out of concrete with some timber and brick, the former Canberra High School turned ANU School of Art Building could easily be a back drop for a 1930s film.

With its white Art Deco façade, symmetrical wings that converge at its iconic clock tower and original features, such as a balustrade in the clock tower's stair well, the building proudly shows off its stately grandeur. 

And much like its original purpose the day it opened on 30 June 1938, the building is still used as a place to educate the next generation.

Built as the original home of Canberra High School, the building is one of only a few true Australian Art Deco examples in Canberra.

Economic factors during the 1930s produced a period of minimal building across Canberra and caused the emergence of a unique style of Art Deco, crossed with functionalism and minimalism, often referred to as 'stripped classicism'