The scheme uses a conventional assembly of drawings and sketches, but talks of an a-typical architectural ideal. It forces a revisit, and a more probing examination –that reveals a very precise intention to simultaneously question the established notion of architecture for academia and the accepted norms for the creation of architectural artifacts in general.
What interests us in this work is the control it exhibits, its uniformity and the attention to the creation of fabric. In its refusal to employ the inventory of canonical devices of modern architecture, and the superhuman scale, the scheme makes a pertinent question to the practice of architecture in a moment of consequence.
In a display of ironhanded control - of scale, of enclosure and the street, and building typology, that it seems to draw from an intrinsic understanding of climate. The scheme is an assembly of variations in a theme, some subtle, some stark, as illustrated by a sheet titled “Catalogue of Buildings” used in the Masterplan.
Process over Image
The scheme formed from the site, and addresses first the site, and its context and climate and sets up parameters by which a framework for a fabric is established.
This framework establishes the nature of the organism – a designed or orchestrated organic-ness. The series of diagrams that progressively define the Masterplan and set up the controls are very clear in the sequential studies of site organization and ordering.
The architects use simple, and well-established as well as expertly interpreted architectural devices and principals to arrive at a Masterplan that is not conventional but is testament to an evolved ability to manipulate and control these primitive devices in completely new ways.
And then within this construction by progressions the architectural artefact is realized. Realised not devised or visioned. The architectural aspect of the Masterplan is not a building or a collection of buildings that express a central vision or beacon for the university – around which the rest of the lesser functions are organized by a canonical system of placement and planning .
The excessive reliance on the plan as arena of relationships and decision making does leave a certain incompleteness especially when looking at relationship from within building enclosures and the large public spaces and arenas that are caused by their strategized absence!
Bijoy points out in the accompanying report “the apparent simplicity of the building shape is used to configure complex public space”.
The attempt to simulate an organically evolved settlement may at some point seem farcical and naive, denying both the factors of time and of unconnected authorship, yet if looked at as “multi-variety” of buildings within a restrictive fabric located within the framework of a very clear “inventory of building types” this is an outcome of a design process allowed to run its course. It throws up a very interesting collection of cohesive architectonic studies across all manner of use, scale and image-ination.
The buildings themselves are studies in variation, derived out of manipulations and additions within a set of rules and frames that allow an upward integration in scale while retaining a more uniform level of complexity .The component buildings of the Masterplan can be seen as derivatives of each other and the underlying principal of the master plan –Practicality and Memorability clearly evident and expressive.
Special – as opposed to landmark
Especially important is the use of definition as “special” as opposed to landmark – where use, purpose and importance is expressed as human relationship and not a expression of the physical nature of the artefact.
Familiarity and the fact that these buildings share certain aspects turns them into a connected mesh of built and un-built (which seems far more tangible and critical to the schemes success) that spreads across the landscape without the idea of Monument or superhuman presence being necessitated.
The Single idea – “Identities of Places”
Not the single or multiple monuments and its retinue of lesser buildings in attendance to create the vision-ed. Of course you could argue that the entire scheme is a monument, but it would then necessitate a reinterpretation of the idea and physiognomy of the monument, as we understand it. And in that fact I think lies the biggest success of the scheme. A stance that inherently opposed and rejects the principal of “monuments” and “assemblies that derive from those monuments” as the organizing idea of larger than human-scale architecture!
Most often we decide and create the artefacts that will be the identities of places and then arrange the more mundane of functional edifices in a decreasing nature of interest and hierarchy.
Constructed with deep thought, clear and carefully intention and pragmatism rather than nostalgia that continues to guide the vision of “super” human habitation.
Although not apparent in the onset the development of ideas, from detail to the mammoth idea of the university itself the components come together effortlessly. Not to say that the scheme is complete or final or rationalized – no, but as a single idea and a single entity there is web of clear and directed intention that unites the campus that is completely at odds with most experiences and the predominantly encountered examples of academic campuses.
A hugely satisfying, thought provoking and engaging search for an ideal environment for higher learning, it does not of course pretend to have entirely solved the numerous of issues or problems that projects this scale can pose but it presents an unapologetic and confident argument of its capacity.
The architects opening statement for their entry to the Competition speaks of “Practical and Memorable” and almost immediately makes one stop in ones tracks to re-examine what that means. Surely there must be some error.
Yet as you examine the scheme, through a series of well drawn plates in fairly conventional drawing representational progression, the oddness of the statement slowly gives way to surprise and finally to appreciation.
In all it can, it denies or, seeks to deny the need for nostalgia!