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Historic revitalisation of Main Street Markham with Stratacells

Historic revitalisation of Main Street Markham with Stratacells
By Kristyn Levis

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A prominent roadway in the City of Markham, Ontario, Canada, has been redesigned using various products from Citygreen®.

The project, which started in 2012 and set to be completed this year, involved revitalising the historic downtown Markham with an estimated overall cost of $8 million.

The roadway, commonly known as Main Street Markham, is a well-known north-south roadway through the city, connecting Highway 407 in the south to Major Mackenzie Drive to the north.

Regan Hutcheson, the City’s Manager of Heritage Planning, provided valuable input to ensure that the streetscape design was sensitive to the heritage conservation district character. Dan Foong from the City of Markham was the project manager while Sally Campbell acted as the city’s urban designer.

“There are three distinct sections of Main Street and the reconstruction phasing was broken down into corresponding sections. At the heart of the overall project area located in the middle of the road corridor is Markham Village,” Campbell said.

She added that there has been a long history in planning for the enhancement of Markham Village. In 1999, the Main Street Markham Committee developed Main Street Markham: A Vision for the Millennium to address “the growing need to protect and enhance the historic Markham Village as a result of rapid growth in the City of Markham”.

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This was followed by the Main Street Markham Streetscape and Traffic Management Study in 2003. It recommended that developers look at the wishes of the community to transform the street from a vehicular dominated one to “one that better supports commercial activities in the core and respects and enhances the Markham Village heritage Conservation District”.

The Markham Transportation Planning Study in 2002 found that the current traffic volumes “warranted the widening of certain sections of Main Street Markham to four lanes whilst respecting the need to preserve the heritage character of the Markham Village section of the roadway”.

Citygreen’s range of products was a good fit in what the city was trying to achieve with the city space. Campbell said the “structural integrity of the StrataCell system® to sustain heavy loads supported by solid technical evidence coupled with comprehensive range of components to suit each situation” appealed to them, pushing them to choose Citygreen over its competitors.

“Citygreen’s representative did a great job of outlining the benefits of using StrataCell system over other soil cell systems. The city decided to go with Citygreen because it offered a complete system, such as cells, root barriers, tree grates, and irrigation system, versus just the cells. With other soil cell systems, we would still need to purchase all of the ancillary items,” Foong said.

The City’s team had relatively limited experience in the installation of soil cell systems within the municipal boulevard, but they have seen other systems used in the regional right of ways and in private developments with varying degrees of success.

They knew that in order for trees to sustain their health and growth potential to provide the most benefits, they needed as much room to grow as possible. They anticipated that the spaces available for trees in the boulevards and bump outs along Main Street Markham were crowded with above and below ground infrastructure and utilities.

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“We knew an innovative solution to provide sufficient soil volume was required,” Campbell said. “Having explored alternative methods of achieving the required soil volume, including an in-house tree pit design as well as other soil cell products, we opted for Citygreen’s product and saw benefits on the comprehensive system offered.”

“We appreciated excellent customer service and numerous presentations by the Citygreen representative to different departments within the City of Markham to explain the product.”

Foong said adequate soil volumes are extremely important to the health of urban trees and the StrataCells provided sufficient soil volumes. The local government have previously committed to planting more trees. To support this, the city produced a Streetscape Manual: Trees for Tomorrow in 2009, which contains technical requirements to support healthy tree growth.

All public and private trees planted in the city have to follow the standards in the manual. This includes achieving minimum 30 cubic metres of soil for a large stature tree, “which can be reduced if trees share the soil in a connected pit”.

“In the majority of cases along Main Street, the use of the StrataCells did help us attain the required soil volumes. In some instances, a smaller stature tree species was selected where other constraints meant that we could not achieve the optimum soil volumes even with the use of the cells,” Campbell said.

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During the project, it was determined that open decorative tree grates around the base of the trees was not a good setup for the area. It creates a potential trip hazard, and coffee shops and restaurants wanted to have the ability to place tables and chairs in the boulevard. Businesses were concerned the chair legs would go through the grates.

“Citygreen provided information about their paver grate product that allows for the surface pavers to be laid on top of the grate as close to the base of the tree as possible while allowing for growth. This application has proved very successful and provides a clean look and maximises the amount of useable space around the trees,” Campbell said.

Although the City will continue to select the most appropriate and cost effective solution to their future projects, based on their experience now, they are open to using Citygreen systems again.

Aside from the StrataCells, the Main Street Markham project also used Citygreen’s paver grates, reroot root barriers and rootrain irrigation system.

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A Village Revitalized with WSUD Treatments and StrataCells

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A Village Revitalized with WSUD Treatments and StrataCells
by Kristyn M. Levis

A community village in need of rejuvenation has been transformed into a busy economic and social hub with the help of the CityGreen® modular StrataCell system®.

The Eaton Mall project in Oakleigh (Victoria) – jointly funded by Monash Council, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Department of Planning and Community Development, and Melbourne Water – was a “highly innovative and significant initiative in liveable public places”.

Its aim was to support social, economic, environmental and cultural development for Oakleigh Village through the addition of safe, connected and accessible public space, psychological calming of traffic using “naked” street design techniques, and pedestrian and child-friendly places.

The project also included extensive water sensitive urban design (WSUD) treatments, high quality sustainable and durable street furniture, lighting and finishes, creating a unique and enhanced cultural experience. The design subtly references southern European influences through the use of hard and soft landscaping, custom street furniture, public art and architectural lighting.

Eaton Mall is located between Atherton Road and Portman Street and has been a suburban pedestrianised street for over 30 years. This area was identified as a “high priority for rehabilitation and rejuvenation” in a public space enhancement study.

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Jonathon Makaay, senior project architect at Monash Council, said the $2.6 million project started in June 2012 and finished in December 2012. Monash Council’s Urban Design and Architecture Department handled the design and management of the project with a “design vision based on the street being treated as a community room”.

“The rejuvenation project builds on the strengths of the human qualities of the village to create a robust, vibrant and liveable setting for people. The design response allows for sustainable economic growth and tourism through highly innovative evidence-based and human-centred design. This includes a series of highly accessible, connected, and multi use public spaces,” Makaay said.

The council selected the Citygreen system for several reasons. First, they needed structural integrity, a class C loading to the streetscape paving. Second, the project needed appropriate space for root growth for advanced street trees, without compromising the pavement behaviour over time with problems such as uplifting.

IMG_00000189Makaay said soil volumes are very important for the success and growth rate of street trees. “The calculations for root volumes were all done during the design process and led us to the StrataCell product.”

Third, the system was able to integrate with the council’s water sensitive urban design. “All the street trees are rain and stormwater fed. Water has been harvested for reuse from the street, overhead canopies and large shade structures,” Makaay said.

Fourth, the system’s ease of assembly gave good practical design results with very minimal complications when installing the system. Finally, the fact that the StrataCell system is made from 100 percent recycled polymers gave it an edge as the council prefers to use responsible and sustainable products for all its design solutions.

The Eaton Mall project’s economic vision is to enhance commercial yield by promoting “multicultural branding and quality place making”. This has been achieved by stimulating activity through the strategic placement of community gathering places, enhanced pedestrianisation and connectivity.

The vibrant living street is an important part of the council’s quality retail and commercial initiatives. By improving the outdoor retail trading space, visitors are encouraged to stay longer. The council was able to provide a quality public space to attract private investment, branding the Oakleigh activity centre as a village precinct.

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Aside from that, the design actively promotes a safer walking and cycling experience through the adoption of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPETD). By decluttering the space and improving pedestrian lighting, the result enhances facial recognition and psychological comfort, which provides for a safer nighttime street environment.

“Some of the main design intentions were to create a more open, accessible, spacious, sustainable, and more contemporary impression. The StrataCell product allowed us to use a flexible pavement base and to include water sensitive design components. It meant we could provide for advanced tree growth without compromising on the aesthetics of the project,” Makaay said.

This was the first time that the council has used the system or anything like it and so there were a few initial teething problems around the installation. But Makaay said once the contractor had completed the first one, it was smooth sailing from then on. They encountered some services that could not be integrated with the StrataCells so instead, two of the tree pit sizes were reduced.

Makaay said he would certainly consider using the system again after his experience with the Eaton Mall project. Today, the trees are looking healthy and vibrant and they have encountered no issues with the system since the project was completed.

With its successful implementation, the Eaton Mall project celebrates the village’s existing culture by providing a more “aesthetically focused, environmentally sensitive public environment”.

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Increased soil volume allows for larger trees in Canberra suburb

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Increased soil volume allows for larger trees in Canberra suburb
by Kristyn Maslog – Levis

The Citygreen® modular StrataCell system® is starring in Canberra’s new hot residential subdivision of Casey.

Oculus designed the landscape works and opted to use the system after realising the constraints of the area. Sellick Consultants were the chosen engineers for the project. The Casey project, which started in 2012 and was completed only February this year, required the planting of sizable trees on the street in front of the retail centre on Kingsland Parade.

Keith Stead, associate director from Oculus, said that by planting big trees on the street, it connects the surrounding areas to the retail centre. However, they were struggling to do that because of the constraints on the area, such as the lack of available space, the presence of services and street parking on one side.

“Initial investigation was clear that the available areas we had weren’t going to be enough to have large oak trees used in the neighbourhood. We needed to come out with an approach to increase soil volume while still allowing also enough room for the parking to work. The obvious solution was to use the system, which allowed us to take advantage of the ground underneath where the parking was going. We used that to increase soil volumes,” Stead said.

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Although Oculus have previously investigated the system for other projects, this is the first time they’ve used the StrataCell system. “The system worked well. They were the right size for the tree down that street. With other solutions, we couldn’t have done that,” Stead said.

Like with everything else, trying out something new for the first time needs a lot of discussion. As the contractors were new to the system, it needed “a bit of working through to get everyone on board”.

“Everytime you try a new system, there’s always a learning curve. It’s just a new way of doing things,” Stead said.

They didn’t have difficulty installing the system but they experienced some issues trying to get the soil into the cells.

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“We wanted to make sure it was consolidated enough so that we got soil in there and allowed for settlement without over compacting it,” he said.

[Editor’s note: The StrataCell has a honeycomb-like structure for high strength to support pavement while accommodating structural roots.]

They had to find a solution for the use of permeable pavement over the cells. “It wasn’t enough depth for the paving. We had to have a custom approach and had to place a thin layer of [porous] concrete with reinforcing mesh. The cells had projecting nibs on them and we had to get them cut down because they were sticking out,” Stead said.

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He clarified that it’s not a criticism of the system. “If adequate depth had been allowed for the permeable paving in accordance with how Citygreen normally have in their standard detail, it wouldn’t have been an issue.”

Stead said the project received a lot of support from Citygreen, replying to their queries through phone, email and personal appearance on the site. “It was a bit of team effort. The engineers, contractors, Citygreen and myself had a few discussions on the installation.”

There were no major issues with the project, as it’s all very straightforward. But there were some areas where they had to break out rocks to make the services work. “It’s a tough environment, it’s quite windy on the site. Canberra is pretty cold in winter and hot in summer. There are some environmental concerns to work on.”

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**photo courtesy of Andrew Easey at Sellick Consultants

 

Still, Stead is quite certain that they picked the right system for the job. He said that the StrataCell is the only system that gives the additional volume for the space.

“We used structural soil before but in reality a large percentage of structural soil is not actually available for rooting. Whereas with the StrataCell system, something like 95 percent of the volume is available to be filled with soil and available for rooting. The additional volume gives Citygreen the significant edge to other options,” Stead said.

Everything is working well since the completion of the project. They’ve tested the parking bay on top of the site and actually drove a concrete truck on top of it.

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“It all appears to be very rigid. The expectation is that there will be no issues, which is obviously a key consideration,” he said. Although the trees were only put in early this year, they appear to be doing well.

“At the moment they’re doing as well as can be expected. The additional soil volume will give them that stability in the long term,” Stead said.

“This is definitely a good system and we’re considering to use it in other projects. I think the landscape industry in general are more aware with issues of street tree health and how small soil volumes given to street trees are not a good thing for their long term health. We have to work harder to give street trees proper soil volume and the Citygreen system provides a good way of doing that,” he added.

StrataCells extend Elm life in Edmonton

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StrataCells extend Elm life in Edmonton
By Kristyn Levis

A very old American Elm in the City of Edmonton in Canada, valued at around $25,000, has been given a new lease in life with the help of the CityGreen® modular StrataCell system®.

The 99 Street Plaza project was designed in 2013 as part of a larger streetscaping project. The small plaza was essentially a sidewalk/boulevard project aimed at improving the existing sitting node adjacent to a neighbourhood café.

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Jim Black, the project’s landscape architect from the City of Edmonton, said the old site was a 1.5 metre sidewalk with a three-metre wide hard packed gravel boulevard. In the gravel boulevard stood a 150mm caliper Brandon Elm and a very old 500mm diameter American Elm.

“It was a great concern to the city and within the community that it be saved and, if possible, its environs improved. The community desired that the concrete walk and gravel be removed and replaced with a hard surface area for café tables. At the same time, it was recognised that this could reduce oxygen/water penetration to the roots,” Black said.

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A design using Citygreen’s StrataCell system beneath a permeable paving stone surface was developed. Black said the system allowed the introduction of topsoil to the root area and the permeable blocks allowed penetration.

Kevin Donaghey, project manager at SG Landscaping, said the streetscape upgrade involved the installation of bollards, decorative poles, two patio areas and related site furnishings. The project costs around $400,000 with some items ready for completion this Canadian spring. The Citygreen system was used under pavers in high traffic areas where tree plants are in close proximity.

“There was some judicious root cutting on one side of the elm, but it was felt that regrowth of roots into the improved growing medium would quickly compensate and over time, these roots would be able to colonise a much larger topsoil area,” Black said.

The trickiest part of the project was setting the ground elevations to accommodate drainage while minimising depth of excavation.

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“There was some hand digging and exposing of larger roots. We have funneled much of the surface water in the area toward the permeable pavement,” Black said.

Since the project is still fresh, there hasn’t been time to evaluate the effect on the trees. However, Black is confident it’s all going to turn out as planned.

“Our experience with similar excavations are that the construction damage to the roots was within tolerable levels and the improvement to the growing medium will give this tree an advantage that similarly impacted trees in the past did not have,” he said.

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He found that the cells were straightforward to install and “within budget on a cost benefit basis”.

Donaghey echoes the positive feedback with using the Citygreen system, finding the installation quite simple. The presence of a Citygreen representative prior to the start of the project to discuss installation methods with the crew also helped make the process much easier.

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“This system is much better than similar fabric-type systems as it is easier to install and fill with soil and in my opinion, a stronger system overall,” Donaghey said.

“The biggest issue with the project was getting site furnishing delivered on time and having the suppliers live up to their word on delivery. The StrataCell was the only product we used that was delivered on time,” Donaghey said. He is very positive about using the system again in future projects.

Although he added that material cost is a bit higher, the labour involved to install the product is cheaper. “With the high cost of labour here, overall it was a little cheaper,” he said.

Trees Stand the Test of Time at Cornmeal Parade

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Trees Stand the Test of Time at Cornmeal Parade
By Kristyn M. Levis

In a span of six years, Maroochydore’s Cornmeal Parade has flourished into a beautiful green scenery despite the harsh exposed conditions that worked against establishing trees in that area, thanks to the Citygreen® modular Soil Cell system®.

The project aimed to refurbish the waterfront along Cornmeal Parade in Maroochydore. This is a significant area that links the Sunshine Plaza with Cotton Tree Park, First Avenue, and Duporth Avenue.

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In April 2008, then Sunshine Coast mayor Bob Abbot turned the first sod on the Cornmeal Creek Pedestrian Promenade project. The $1.7 million public walkway along Cornmeal Creek aimed to provide “landscaped access for pedestrians and cyclists on the south side of the Cornmeal Creek”.

The improvements allowed for “safe and easy access between the Sunshine Plaza and Cotton Tree”. The added lighting, street furniture and landscape amenity created a pleasant environment for the area.

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The promenade followed the $3.17 million Maroochydore Urban Improvement Stratagy project, which was completed late 2008. The state government provided 50 percent of the funding as part of the Regional Centres Program.

The project was originally part of planning for the development of a Civic Centre near the Cornmeal Creek carpark. Rhys Pollett, Landscape Architect from the Sunshine Coast Council was responsible for developing the design of the project. “Cotton Tree had been upgraded and this was one of the key links to the renewal of the waterfront,” Rhys said. The Cornmeal Parade project lifted the area and created a pedestrian friendly environment.

“The reason why we used Citygreen was because of the harsh conditions down on the site. There is fill along the length of the site and we wanted to optimise conditions for tree growth. There is a lot of wind blow and challenges establishing trees in those conditions,” Rhys said. “We really wanted to maximise the root area for the trees and support pedestrian pavements.”

Rhys believes that the simplicity of the Soil Cell system is its real advantage. “It is easier to specify, detail and document than using a traditional structural soil. The Soil Cell is certainly more simple compared to others and takes the complexity out of it. It comes back to dollars and the fact that using a proprietary system can save you time, money and headaches,” he said. It’s easy to find out information about the system and get good product support.

Because it was a new product for them, the council decided to use the Cornmeal Parade project as a trial for the Soil Cell, which garnered a lot of interest. Although the client and contractor were unfamiliar with the product, a Citygreen representative was on the site to guide the installation. “The installation was relatively easy. We had heaps of support. Even though the contractors were relatively unfamiliar with the product, it went pretty smoothly. Since then everyone’s become more familiar with the technology.”

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He added that the system fitted in very well with the whole intent of what they wanted to do with the site. “Technically, it enabled us to address and resolve the constraints and optimise the outcome that we wanted to achieve there. The system went well with the intention of the design.”

As clearly shown in the photos, the trees have established very well since the completion of the project. It also helped that the timing of the project coincided with several wet seasons. “They are in pretty good health given the exposure down there where the conditions are very harsh,” Rhys said.

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At the moment, the Sunshine Coast Council are trialing various products and construction technologies for street trees establishment and works around existing trees. But he added that they are likely to use the StrataCell system in future projects.

Creating a Grand Entrance with StrataCells

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Creating a Grand Entrance with StrataCells
By Kristyn M. Levis

Monash University’s Law Forecourt in Victoria has been remodelled into a pedestrian friendly green space using the CityGreen® modular StrataCell system®.

Arborgreen worked with Outlines Landscape Architecture to create a tree pit design for the trees in the forecourt that would allow the trees to establish in good health and provide the needed canopy cover for the shading of the area.

“The design team chose the CityGreen StrataCell system to provide adequate volume of uncompacted, friable growing medium below the expanses of pedestrian pavement,” said Rod Gooden, Arborgreen Area sales Manager.

The Law Forecourt redevelopment project, which started in January 2012, was one of the many upgrades in the university. The rejuvenation of the area is part of the strategic aims of the Monash Masterplan.

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The project was done alongside works at both the Law and Menzies buildings to “provide a seamless, high quality forecourt space with improved accessibility and visual appeal”. The area has a series of canopy trees, which will provide good shade when they mature.

The project’s complex brief included creating a sense of arrival to the campus, as well as at each building entry point; stimulating activity and pedestrian access; improving the interface between the Law and Menzies buildings’ facades; mitigate the discomfort caused by the extensive shading from the Menzies building, particularly in the South East Garden by encouraging solar access; and preventing crime through environmental design.

Rod from Arborgreen said the first delivery of the subsurface components was made in February 2012. The landscape works were completed at the end of 2012. The architect picked the 60 series high strength StrataCell due to the access required of heavy service vehicles like EWPs.

“We achieved a vastly increased volume of quality soil for the establishment of the tree’s root, without sacrificing the valuable pavement space,” Rod said.

The ReRoot root control barrier was used to surround the primary tree pit opening to protect the pavement from root intrusion. The Hawthorne DuraPlate tree grate was also chosen to provide an uninterrupted pavement surface due to the volume of pedestrian traffic.

The development remodelled the area into a striking design that suits the current main entrance to the campus. “The previous space was a bowl of pathways and stairs intersecting at various levels, and proved to be not sufficiently accessible. The area has now been updated into a grand entrance and forecourt to the Law faculty and Arts and Humanities faculty,” the university website said.

“The Menzies Law Forecourt project is representative of Monash’s new, University-wide curated approach to landscape developments, with a consistent urban design to be considered for all major spaces on the campus,” the university said.

Damon Obst, director at Outlines Landscape Architect, said the design’s intent was to create a strong civic scale space with great amenity for gathering and socialising, as well as providing legible access and movement through the space. The StrataCell system was used to maximise the performance and long-term success for the grid of trees within the site.

“Trees were typically within pavement areas and the system allowed an expanded subterranean zone for lateral root growth,” Damon said. “It provided a structural matrix, meaning vehicular rated pavements can be laid over the top without heavy compaction. Other systems we’ve used don’t allow this to the same extent.”

Although the system adds some cost to the project, Damon said the “long-term value of the large, healthy trees in urban spaces is one we, and the client, placed a high value on”.

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As with most projects, Rod said they encountered un-chartered services, but they were able to adjust the matrix to work around the services. Damon added that in some areas they needed to modify the extent of the StrataCell to allow for below ground services. They had to ensure that irrigation, drainage and other services are all installed and integrated within the system.

“There were some challenges due to the need to match the tree grate location to the final pavement design, but we were able to overcome this by adjusting the dimensions of the tree grate slightly,” Rod said.

These issues were easily dealt with and no other problems were met after that. Damon said the modular system seems to help with the whole installation process.

The trees have established well and the last time Rod visited the area, they appeared to be in very good health “especially considering the existing compacted soil type and the volume of pedestrian traffic”. Damon agrees saying that “the trees are growing well and consistently”.

This year, students were greeted with colourful sculptures as the final touch to the $2 million refurbishment of the Law Forecourt outdoor area extending from the southern façade of the Menzies Building to the Law Building Forecourt and The Gallery Building.

Dianne O’Neill, Law Faculty Facilities Manager at Clayton, is delighted with the wide-open pedestrian thoroughfare that brings arrivals at the bus loop to the campus.

Built in 1962 and first opened to students in 1963, the Menzies was said to be the largest university building in Australia, standing more than 50 metres tall. It was regarded for its architectural brilliance during its prime. With the refurbishments completed, the “grand old lady of Monash” can now once again shine.