Auchmuty roof terrace open

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen opened the refurbished outdoor learning environment on Monday 26 May.

Vice-Chancellor addresses gathered guests

"One of the best outdoor learning environments within an academic library."

Students studied in the sun nearby while members of the Friends of the University, past and present staff, Project Architect Mr Stuart Campbell, and representatives from CKDS Architects gathered to celebrate the official opening of the refurbished Auchmuty Roof Terrace on Monday 26 May.

Also present were Dr Ted Flowers, University librarian when the Auchmuty Library opened (complete with roof-top reading area) in 1968, and the master planner for the Shortland site, Mr Gordon Fuller.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen welcomed guests and recounted the history of the roof terrace before assisting the President of the Friends of the University, Mr Vic Levi, to unveil a plaque and declare the roof terrace open.

Outdoor learning areas are now common features in universities, but in the 1960s, an outdoor reading area in a university library was unusual. Inspiration came partly from a wish to compensate for the lack of natural light and views in other areas of the library, but also from an understanding of the importance of places to study, discuss, and read outdoors.

The rooftop garden was popular from the start, but not without its problems. Soon after the original plants were installed in planter boxes, they were devoured by hungry possums.

By the mid 1980s the furniture was beginning to wear out and the roof garden began leaking into the Library foyer below. A staff member reported "Niagara Falls" coming down their office wall.

A new waterproof membrane was installed and additional furniture was provided by the Friends of the University, but the roof continued to be plagued by leaks until 2007 when all furniture had to be removed and the rooftop became a concrete wasteland.

University Librarian, Mr Greg Anderson was determined to restore the area to an outdoor learning space that offered an enhanced student experience. Following a number of proposals that were either too expensive or threatened the integrity of the waterproof membrane, in 2012 CKDS Architects lead by Mr Stuart Campbell developed the current solution.

The roof terrace is designed to create the feel of an inner city park. Raised platforms with artificial turf and seating resembling branches or twigs create a connection with our bushland campus and provide study zones for students to work in groups or individually.

Colourful shading panels and a stunning mural funded by the Friends of the University, add a burst of colour. Wall mounted checker boards offer a welcome distraction to study.

Students and staff are already making great use of the space and the area has generated interest from other university libraries in Australia and overseas – it is now regarded as one of the best outdoor learning environments within an academic library building.

The Vice-Chancellor noted, "This remarkable outdoor learning space would not have been possible without hard work from a number of University staff, the generous support of the Friends of the University and student contributions via SSAF funding."

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