Geology welcomes its partners in Earth Studies

Published 11 December 2008

es-build.jpgGeologists, geographers, planners and archaeologists are filling a 40-year-old building at the University  of New England with new life and fresh ideas.

They all now inhabit the University’s refurbished and newly-named Earth  Studies Building.

The Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Alan Pettigrew, officially opened the Earth  Studies Building on Tuesday 9 December. He congratulated everyone involved in the re-creation of the building, and said that housing the different disciplines together would facilitate an interdisciplinary approach to research that “boded well for the future”.

He thanked the team from UNE’s Facilities Management Services led by Mike Quinlan for “creating a great building”, and he thanked the building’s new inhabitants, who had contributed their ideas to the planning. He also thanked Professor Tony Sorensen, who, as Head of the former School of Human and Environmental Studies (SHES), had been “a driving force” behind the project.

Until recently, the disciplines of Geography and Planning and Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology were accommodated in a wooden building erected to re-house Geography and Geology after their original home – the Belshaw Block – had been destroyed by fire in 1958. All those disciplines have now joined Geology in the building constructed to house it in 1968.

Among those attending the opening of the Geology building on the 7th of September 1968 was Peter Flood, who had graduated the previous year from UNE with a First Class Honours degree in Geology. Speaking at this week’s event, Professor Flood – now UNE’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) – said his connection with the building had begun soon after its opening, when he enrolled in his Master’s degree program in Geology. Two others with original connections to the building were at this week’s opening of its new life as Earth Studies: Dr Barrie McKelvey, who retired as an Associate Professor of Geology in 1996 and is now an Honorary Research Fellow, and Nick Petrasz, who was a specialist technician in Geology when the building was opened, and continued in that role until his retirement – also in 1996.

While the demolition of the SHES building and the refurbishment of the Geology building cost the University $3.5 million, the outcome of the work – the Earth  Studies Building – is now valued at between $8 million and $10 million. Professor Pettigrew said the Facilities Management Services team had done a remarkable job in terms both of finances – working within the budget – and  logistics – moving and re-accommodating the staff members involved.

Mike Quinlan, the Director of Facilities Management Services, described the work as a “total refurbishment”, including the installation of full disability access and updated IT infrastructure. “We’ve given the building a whole new image,” Mr Quinlan said, referring particularly to the striking pattern on its eastern façade, representing the layered strata of the earth, and the newly created glazed foyer and meeting area extending from the ground floor to the first floor.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows the eastern aspect of the Earth Studies Building with its newly-created glazed meeting areas. Clicking on this image reveals a photograph of (from left) Dr Barrie McKelvey, Nicholas Petrasz and Professor Peter Flood at this week’s opening of the building.