Adelaidean - News from the University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide Australia
September 2005 Issue
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Helping a University treasure keep its cool

 Heritage

The "Great Hall" of the University of Adelaide has closed its doors for physical improvements, and will re-open in November with a breath of fresh air.

News that Bonython Hall is to be airconditioned will be welcome relief considering the warm temperatures experienced during December graduations. The Hall is also used for exams, expos and public meetings.

The first stage of the Bonython Hall upgrade will also involve earthquake strengthening of the northern turrets and incorporating an audiovisual installation in the main hall.

Built from 1933 to 1936 with a bequest by Sir John Langdon Bonython to meet the University's need for an assembly hall, it now features on the state and national heritage registers.

"This is a building of architectural significance and comparable to great halls of other sandstone universities around the world," said Paul Dulding, Executive Director, Finance and Infrastructure. "It is therefore imperative we maintain it."

Mr Duldig said the proposed air-conditioning design incorporated the placement of fresh air intakes in the northern turrets.

"It was therefore decided that the repair and strengthening of the turrets had to be undertaken prior to the replacement of the intakes," Mr Duldig said.

"We were advised that the masonry cupola had deteriorated, while large masonry elements were loose.

"We acted quickly to undertake the conservation works, giving us sufficient time to install the air conditioning before the end of November."

The project also required historians and researchers, who discovered the original 1933 specifications for the stone turrets were "Hard Murray Bridge Freestone" and that much of the detail and dressings for the Hall were cast in "Pressed Cement Synthetic Stonework".

"Besides the importance of the upgrade, those involved have enjoyed learning more about Bonython Hall and how it was constructed. It has been a wonderful historical exercise," Mr Duldig said.

In fact, Bonython Hall has a fascinating past and, before its construction, was a major subject for discussion. Although few questioned the need for such a building, there were heated debates as to where it should stand.

Its location - at the northern end of Pulteney Street, which blocked any extension - was deliberately chosen to avoid traffic through the University's grounds. However, Colonel Light's plan had Pulteney Street as one of the three main arteries from North Adelaide to South Adelaide.

Another "tale" is the floor's incline - according to folklore it was designed to exclude ballroom dancing and other frivolities, but there is no documentary evidence to support this.

What is for sure, though, is that Bonython Hall will be a lot cooler come December.

Story by Howard Salkow

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Bonython Hall
Photo by Ben Osborne

Bonython Hall
Photo by Ben Osborne

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