From the ashes of the former Lodge dwellings at Siding Spring Observatory, an impressive new building has emerged.
While the majority of infrastructure at Siding Spring survived the Wambelong bushfire in 2013, the Lodge accommodation facility was not so lucky.
The original brick building sustained extensive damage during the blaze and was unable to be salvaged.
Temporary housing options for visiting researchers have been in place for the past three years while the Australian National University (ANU) examined options to rebuild the amenities.
Today, the $5 million project to reconstruct the Lodge is nearing completion.
Siding Spring site operations manager, Brad Condon, said the build was in its final stages.
“This has been an exceptionally wet winter, but the building schedule is back on track,” Mr Condon said.
“The main structure is complete, and presently the interior walls, ceilings and fittings are being installed.
“Keys to the new Lodge will be handed over to ANU in early 2017, with an official opening to be held in late February or early March.”
Designed by Sydney- based architects, Lahzinimmo, construction work has been carried out by AMA Projects, which has offices in both Sydney and Canberra.
With up to 30 people working on the site at any one time, managing contractor, Joel Dunn, and his core team have been living in Coonabarabran since May, experiencing all weather conditions that Siding Spring has to offer.
The team was also tasked with re-building the new fire shed on the mountain, which was razed during the Wambelong bushfire.
The design itself presents as a low-lying building in the landscape, allowing the observatories on site to remain as the primary built form.
In addition to two well-appointed balconies, library and communal lounge, the new Lodge will feature 18 ensuite bedrooms across two stories, offering amazing views of the Warrumbungles.
A new commercial kitchen will provide catering for guests, as well as supporting the improved menu planned for the Visitor Centre.
The provision of a seminar room is another welcome addition, enhancing the experience for visiting astronomers and providing a modern space to host information sessions for tour groups.
Fire protection measures and Dark Sky Park requirements have been factored in to the building specifications, while also remaining stylish.
Mr Condon said the building design added prestige to the site.
“Itisofahigh international standard that will be attractive and function to a wide variety of groups,” he said.
“Astronomers have always preferred to stay on site. To accommodate their needs we made rooms available in several cottages, while other astronomers choose to view remotely.
“But nothing compares to working and observing from the site, so the astronomers are looking forward to returning to Siding Spring and Coonabarabran.”
Siding Spring Observatory site operations manager, Brad Condon, and Joel Dunn, managing contractor of the Lodge construction.