Saturday, November 16, 2013

University designs . . .

"I declare this thing open, whatever it is."

Prince Phillip (1921 - ), on opening the new east wing of Vancouver City Hall in 1970.

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No 2 son, Elliot, is a student at the University of Technology Sydney. 

For those Byters not from Sydney, the UTS building is probably the ugliest building in Sydney. 


It has always struck me as bizarre that a university that teaches, inter alia, building design should be housed in a building that lacks any aesthetic qualities, a point often made by me to No 2 son. 

Why am I telling you this?

Because as I drive into and out of the city I have to drive past the new UTS building, the Broadway Building, being built in front of the ugly old one. It is another bizarre structure, as is another new UTS building that is currently being built, Dr Chau Chak Wing Building. No 2 son defends the newer designs and talks about the vision and bold concepts but I can’t see it.

Knowing that Byters are a sophisticated and intelligent lot (to paraphrase the Cheshire Cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you must be otherwise you wouldn’t be here), I place the matter before you . . .

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The Broadway Building


From the UTS website:

Angled, semi-transparent “binary screens” envelop the winning proposal for the Broadway Building. The screens provide the building with a dramatic urban presence. They are made of aluminium sheets perforated with binary code, the series of “1s” and “0s” that underpins computer programming language. The building is also known as the Information Technology and Engineering (ITE) Building. Reflecting the final tenant of the building, the binary code reads ‘University of Technology, Sydney Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology. 
The architect’s design concept positions the new building as a single, sculptural object in the city. “Gills” creased into the aluminium plates of the binary screen punctuate the façade and symbolically reinforce the building as a living, breathing structure. A crevasse-like pedestrian atrium runs through the heart of the building, both horizontally and vertically. It will connect the local neighbourhood to the UTS education precinct.

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Some pics:




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The binary coding of the façade translates to 'University of Technology Sydney Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology'.

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Despite its cleverness and boldness, it doesn’t do it for me. To me it still looks some slasher took to it with a knife or scalpel. The building sends out a vibe of violence and mental disturbance.

What do others think?

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Just to show that ugly UTS buildings are not the exception, here is the third limb of the trifecta:

Dr Chau Chak Wing Building


From the UTS website:

A key component of UTS’s City Campus Master Plan, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building will provide teaching, learning, research and office accommodation for the UTS Business School, a manifestation of the creative thinking that underpins the teaching and research undertaken by the faculty and, more broadly, the university. There will be extensive public spaces in the new building, including student lounges, cafes and outdoor roof terraces. 
The building will have two distinct external facades, one composed of undulating brick, referencing the sandstone and the dignity of Sydney’s urban brick heritage, and the other of large, angled sheets of glass to fracture and mirror the image of surrounding buildings. 
The building is named for Australian-Chinese businessman and philanthropist Dr Chau Chak Wing, who donated $20 million to the project, alongside an additional $5 million for Australia-China scholarships. 
Frank Gehry imagined a building that was a cluster of “tree houses,” or vertical stacks of office floors with spatial “cracks” in between. 
In the architect's words: 
Frank Gehry imagined a building that was a cluster of “tree houses,” or vertical stacks of office floors with spatial “cracks” in between. 
"Each of the larger lower floors is divided into six floor segments. The building façade folds in between these elements bringing natural daylight deep into the center of the floors." 
"The façade of the building will have two aspects and two different personalities. The east facing façade that contains an entry from the UPN is made of a buff colored brick similar in colour to the Sydney Sandstone. The form of this façade curves and folds like soft fabric. The brick will be set in horizontal courses and will step or corbel to create the shape. The texture of the surface will be rough and will emphasize the mass of the material. The shape flattens as it wraps around the north and south corners. Large windows punch this façade."
"The west facing façade that contains the ground level entry off Ultimo Road is composed of large shards of glass façade. This glass will be slightly reflective to fracture and mirror the image of the surrounding buildings of the neighbourhood. Sculptural brick towers will stand at the northwest and southwest corners of this façade." 
"The ground floor of the building will have a café with seated dining that opens to additional outdoor tables on the sidewalk and proposed plaza to the north. A coffee bar with outdoor seating will animate the upper level entry off the UPN, conveniently adjacent to the student center and the large student lounge. Connected via a staircase to the student lounge will be a more secluded graduate student lounge one level above." 
"The teaching and learning spaces, which are accessibly located on the lower four levels of the building, are comprised of various classroom types primarily serving postgraduate students. There are 10 graduate seminar rooms of 40 seats with flat floors to allow for flexibility in seating arrangement, a 120-seat bowl classroom with desk seating and loose chairs on the first floor, four flat floor graduate computer labs for 40 students each, and two oval classrooms for 60."

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Some pics:



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I thought that it was a practical joke when I first saw the pics of the proposed building. This goes beyond ugly and ridiculous.

It has been variously described as “a microwaved chocolate castle”, “squashed plasticene”, “a crumpled brown bag”.

According to Alan Davies of The Urbanist:

Of course there’s always been a tradition of innovation in architecture – “the shock of the new” and all that. The trouble is I don’t think of this design as innovative. It’s more about wanting to be “different” for the sake of it. And I don’t think it’s a complete success on that score anyway. 

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This one doesn’t fit the mould, however. . . 


It’s another UTS building, also under construction.  This one is under construction in nearby Thomas Street:

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“You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe. When it knocked down our buildings, it didn’t replace them with anything more offensive than rubble.” 

- Prince Charles, 
speech at the Mansion House denouncing plans to rebuild Paternoster Square beside St Paul's Cathedral, December 11 1987.

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