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Historic Clocktower Building refurbishment

Thursday 11 April 2019 12:49pm

A waka sail has been depicted on each of the two glass doors at the main entrance of the University's Clocktower Building - part of an interior refurbishment of the historic building.

The first interior refurbishment of Dunedin’s landmark historic Clocktower Building in more than a decade will include reorganising space to accommodate new occupants and changes for existing occupants’ teams.

Areas of the interior are being refurbished this year as part of the University of Otago's maintenance programme, to ensure the University is fulfilling its duty-of-care to its historic buildings, Chief Financial Officer Sharon van Turnhout says.

The precise work programme and how it will affect occupants is still being finalised but work is expected to start next month.

While the Clocktower Building’s external repairs and maintenance were tackled about two years ago, the building’s interior also has significant deferred maintenance, and furnishings that have passed their lifespan. This will be the first time the building’s interior has been refreshed in more than a decade.

Cost saving upgrade

The refurbishment includes upgrading lighting for the first time in 15 years, which will create on-going energy cost-savings by replacing old, inefficient, and poor quality lighting.

Other upgrades will ensure IT infrastructure can accommodate an increase in occupants, and make use of modern technology. As much of the existing wiring and fittings will be retained as possible.

Layout changes

The project will also involve small alterations to the layout of Clocktower office areas on the first and ground floors, along with the mezzanine level.

These changes are aimed at enhancing open plan working environments and – combined with new furniture and layouts that make better use of space – are hoped to increase work stations by 33 per cent, from 141 to to 188.

Long-term efficiencies are expected from creating fit-for-purpose, team-centric work environments that are flexible enough to meet the changing needs of both current and future occupants, Ms van Turnhout says.

The layout changes will not affect the heritage status of the Clocktower building – Heritage New Zealand has been consulted.

New occupants

The partial interior reorganisation during this $3.3 million project aims to meet the needs of:
• The Financial Services Division’s remodelled team
• An internal relocation for the Planning and Funding Office
• New occupants, from the Division of External Engagement

The External Engagement Division is bringing its Dunedin-based teams together for the first time. This co-location was enabled by some Clocktower occupants moving to the refurbished St David II building and the newly-vacated Scott Shand House and Leith Walkway Building, which spans the Water of Leith stream.

External Engagement teams already relocated to the Clocktower are:
• Communications
• Marketing
• Development and Alumni Relations
• Schools’ Liaison
• Undergraduate Entrance Scholarships

International will move in later this year.

Strong advantages and synergies are expected to flow from External Engagement becoming "one team one place" – and through creating a one-stop-shop for students and other University staff interacting with the Division.

Old and new

Maintenance includes replacing ageing carpet and paint to avoid further deterioration and address potential safety issues, which creates an opportunity to incorporate Ngāi Tahu design elements into the interior.

“The design will respect the past and our cultural heritage, referencing the journeys that have gone before and those we face in the future – which is especially timely given Otago is celebrating its 150th anniversary,” Ms van Turnhout says.

The theme is pacific navigation, a fundamental concept underpinning Māori and Pacific people's values.

The elements provided by Ngāi Tahu artists Simon Kaan and Ephraim Russel include the carpet design, a waka sail on each of the two glass doors at the main entrance, a depiction of a whāriki mat – the weaving of knowledge – in the Council Chamber, furniture colours inspired by sea birds, designs painted on walls to represent the winds and ocean currents that helped carry Māori and then many other Kiwis’ ancestors to Aotearoa, and a hanging sculpture in the main stairwell of the constellations used to navigate to this country.


The project should be completed in early 2020 – parts of the work programme may be deferred for the University’s 150th anniversary events if necessary. Having the University’s Property Services Division work on the refurbishment will enable the flexibility of that programme.

Clocktower staff will move into decant spaces in the Archway West building as the refurbishment progresses.