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Clocktower clock to chime once more

Thursday, 4 May 2017 2:46pm

The University's Clocktower Building covered in scaffolding (left) and as the scaffolding began to be removed yesterday.

Freshening up the University of Otago’s Clocktower building for the first time in more than a decade is involving more work vital for the building’s long-term future than expected.

The centrepiece at New Zealand’s first University has been shrouded in scaffolding to examine the extent of the work required and now that work is being done, Property Services Division Director Barry MacKay says.

Heritage architect Tracey Hartley has identified maintenance issues, and workers on the project include award-winning Wainwright & Co stonemasons, from Dunedin.

All the work is covered by existing maintenance budgets and the tasks completed so far include:

  • Repairing cracks in the four hollow stone cones surrounding the main turret with lime mortar
  • Recasting broken decorative finial caps on two cones
  • Replacing the coating on all the cones
  • Grinding decorative saw teeth at the bottom of the four turrets so water no longer accumulates in areas that have lost their coating
  • Replacing two carved motifs on the bottom of the western turret
  • Repairing iron finials at the top of the tower and attaching them to new lead and steel plates
  • Replacing eroded stone that had originally been shaped to let water run off (drip mouldings)
  • Replacing copper guttering
  • Removing crumbling or loose Oamaru stone and concrete mortar
  • Cleaning surfaces, removing organic growth, and applying a protective product to prevent regrowth
  • Repainting timber
  • Repairing or refilling some joins between Oamaru stone, bluestone and Port Chalmers breccia stone (repointing)

Work still to be done includes:

  • Replacing capping stones on the gable wall above the building’s north entrance, which are in extremely poor condition
  • Repairing or refilling some joins between Oamaru stone, bluestone and Port Chalmers breccia stone
  • Replacing some lead flashings
  • The scaffolding was taken down to just below the clock face yesterday, when work finished there.

The clock should also start chiming again; it was silenced to protect workers’ hearing and because internal rods had corroded and needed to be replaced.

Completing the remaining work will depend heavily on the weather. The timeframe has to be flexible because lime mortar cannot be applied at temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius, Mr MacKay says.

Because the Clocktower is so synonymous with the University of Otago – many students have their photos taken with it and two graduation ceremonies are being held early next month – Otago will follow a European trend and hang scrim bearing a depiction of the clocktower over the remaining scaffolding.

Work on the University’s historic Clocktower Building started with it being washed down during the 2015-2016 Christmas break, and until now the work has been scheduled around high profile events, including graduation ceremonies.

Window-frame paint that had faded from brown to green over time has been repainted dark brown, with red highlights, while Property Services staff also repainted the timber fretwork and trim.

All the exterior colours are based on past records as much as possible, and have been chosen in consultation with Heritage New Zealand and the University’s own strategic architect.

Repointing work has been done on the lower parts of the building as well.

The work is part of wider consideration of the heritage buildings in that quadrant and more works are likely in the future as assessments take place, Mr MacKay says.

About the Clocktower

Architect and engineer Maxwell Bury designed the Clocktower Building in the gothic style.

The first section of the building was completed in 1879, the Oliver wing was officially opened in 1914 and the southern-most section in 1922.

The offices in the Clocktower include those of the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Directors (Academic Services, Human Resources, Planning and Funding, First-Year Experience, Student Services), Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Auditor, the Graduate Research School, Academic Services, Student Administration, Financial Services Division and Mail Services.