New facade, name for uni building

The removal of scaffolding has revealed the new exterior of University of Otago's chemistry building, now known as Mellor Laboratories. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The removal of scaffolding has revealed the new exterior of University of Otago's chemistry building, now known as Mellor Laboratories. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
An ageing University of Otago building is showing its new skin as a multimillion-dollar upgrade brings it into the 21st century.

The removal of the scaffolding comes as the $56million redevelopment of the university's chemistry building, in Cumberland St, is about to hit a major milestone. Staff and students will move into the western half in about a month.

It also revealed the new exterior of the more than 45-year-old building as well as its new name, Mellor Laboratories.

Sciences pro-vice chancellor Prof Keith Hunter said it was an exciting time for the university's science division, as the building contained a high-tech ''super lab'', where students would be taught next year.

The lab had much improved health and safety and up-to-date electronic and audiovisual equipment.

That included iPads for every student, which came down on mechanical arms from the ceiling.

Contractors were now shifting to the eastern side of the building, where a similar lab would be built.

''That is scheduled to be completed around about a year from now,'' Prof Hunter said.

The building was named after the chemistry department's ''most famous'' graduate, Joseph William Mellor.

Mr Mellor graduated from the university in 1898 and after shifting to the United Kingdom he designed high-temperature ceramics during World War 1 that were relevant to the steel industry and the war effort.

He also wrote a series of textbooks and in his will left royalties to the university's chemistry department.

The molecule structure on the exterior of the building is an artist's impression of Laurenene, which was discovered by Otago University PhD chemistry student Dennis Lauren in 1970.

Laurenene is an extraction from the rimu tree and has a unique chemical structure: four rings sharing a central carbon atom.

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