Over the past few months, those who have walked past the Coombs and ANU College of Law buildings while going about their day-to-day business will have noticed that the iconic Menzies Library has been clad with scaffolding and bright blue hoarding. But why?
After more than five decades of sustaining Canberra's weather extremes over summer and winter, it was decided that the heritage-listed building's façade undergo some much-needed restoration. We're told that the stonework, although built to last, had started to show signs of significant wear and tear with leaks, cracks and gaps beginning to show (which is not surprising given how exposed it is to the elements).
Opened in 1963 by Queen Elizabeth II, the Menzies Library includes an iconic collection of furniture designed by Fred Ward and Derek Wrigley of the ANU Design Unit. The building itself isn't the only special thing worth protecting - the library houses some of the rarest books in the world as well as one of the largest collections of Asia-Pacific literature in Australia. It's also home to the Noel Butlin Archives - the University's central repository for all of its historic records as well as records of businesses and trade unions that date back to the 1820's.
So back to the front - what's involved in the restoration?
As part of the University's commitment to preserving its heritage places, more than $1 million was set aside to:
- refurbish, repoint and clean the stonework to the building's 'tower'
- install a waterproof membrane to conserve the building's original copper roof (which is still in place)
- replace glass panels and the seals on the original windows to improve thermal performance; and
- repair external areas where cracks have appeared.
But perhaps more interestingly, and as with many projects around the University, the restoration has had a few challenges.
During the stonework refurbishment, contractors discovered major structural cracking in the corners of the tower section, requiring repair and re-stitching with threaded steel rods.
It has also been difficult for the team to find exact matches for any of the damaged stone blocks used on the façade, given the quarry with which the stone came from (in the 1960s) was effectively emptied entirely so that the Menzies Library could be built.
We are told that the restoration team are currently using oxidisation techniques to test out different colours on stone samples so they can find an exact colour match for the original stone work.
Are you wondering what is happening behind the many fences on campus? Do you have a question about some infrastructure work that is going on around the campus? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll investigate.