The intervention explores a broad context, which involves urban, architectural, managerial, pedagogical and material confrontations. The revamped building mediates with the city through a strong geometrical insertion, whereby the university reclaims an active presence and also suggests an active role for the school in the cultural and political future of Sydney. Assemblages of typologies are brought together in new ways – reprogrammed as dialectical battle learning devices – in order to question the landscape of multiple micro-paradigms currently reigning in the school. Each element (walls, columns, doors, claddings) is in conflict with every other element, but the results are not attempts to recreate a particular scenario. Each recombination is magnificent and abstract, and caricature is skilfully avoided. Confrontation triumphs; struggle drives the architecture.
Contemporary I: Revamp of the UTS School of Architecture
This studio proposes to overhaul the UTS School of Architecture.We will challenge not only the building itself, but also the institution housed within it. It is my firm belief that schools are anti-institutional – they act as pedagogical experiments, cultural platforms, political forums, construction laboratories, and innovation clusters.
Prior to tackling the redesign of our own school, we will survey the building’s fragmented, chaotic interior space and analyse the dominant managerial style driving the institution. We will search for the relationships between these two apparently unrelated topics. Are the milky glass partitions of the Dean’s office related to the lack of transparency in the decision-making process of the university? Is the fragmentary plan of the building connected to the absence of communication with students? Are the never-ending corridors in the staff area linked to employee absenteeism or are they tied up with the large-scale use of air-conditioning? Is the depth of the building affiliated to the deficit of life in the studios? Is the isolation of the robotics labs and the library related to the absurd battle between theory and technology, which is reflected in the design studios? By exploring these questions we will attempt to articulate the positive aspects of what otherwise feels like a formless environment and a dysfunctional academy.
We will use references as a design strategy. We will inspect both recent architectural examples, with the conviction that schools of architecture must pay attention to the contemporary scene, as well as other educational models. We will dissect recent renovations with intellectual precision, and we will replicate them on our site with rigour, proving that we do not fear contemporary precedents. We will carefully examine other architectural institutions from across the globe in order to question our own.
Proposals could includeeducational protocols, furniture designs, demolition schedules, maintenance standards, strategic plans, so-called ‘traditional’ refurbishments, and a combination of some of these items, thus demonstrating that the expansive nature of our studio question is not at odds with possible fragmentary solutions.
The Peter Johnson Building 6 (702-730 Harris Street)has undergone continuous transformations during the last few years in order to “improve student experience”. It is up to the audience to judge the success of this mission. Our proposals will by no means provide definite answers – rather they open up discussions about the study of architecture in the twenty-first century.
The studio aims to be the first iteration of the Contemporary Series. These classes intend to explore what it means to live today.
I am deeply immersed in this insane school, and cannot be expected to be neutral. Sometimes professional things do become ideological.1
1 On 5 March, I was notified by the interim Head of School that my involvement in the Green Dip. studio was no longer required after more than two months of preparation. On 6 March, a week before the ballot, I was invited by the Masters director to teach a different studio. The treatment of casual staff is an on-going problem at UTS DAB, which has obvious educational consequences. The university employs more than 50per cent of its academic staff as casual employees working on short-term contracts. Casual academics have most of the direct contact with the students although they are hardly involved in the educational debates of the institution.