Fads, Façade and Face of Building: A proposal for an urban university campus expansion
“Transparency means a simultaneous perception of different spatial locations. Space not only recedes but fluctuates in a continuous activity” (Kepes).
Universities in New Zealand are increasingly under scrutiny as sites of public investment. This presents a socio-political necessity for academic transparency, and visibility inevitably becomes a matter of architecture through the universities’ physical presence; the façade.
Preoccupations with the aesthetics of a building’s envelope, and the pursuit of technological advancement, has led to a singular understanding of the façade as a mechanical boundary. This research challenges the hermetic nature of the contemporary façade and its legitimacy as a subject matter of architectural design within the overall architectural discourse. Drivers for this project include the need to revisit historical precedents, the ambivalence of the label ‘façade’, and a speculative siting as a campus expansion of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The design response to the site’s topography via the theory-charged, re-oriented, and as a heterogeneous space, and threshold redefined, façade enables a novel way of projecting a building’s image without depleting the façade’s autonomy. This is achieved through a rigorous iterative modelling methodology. That in turn provokes an ambitious urban campus complex scaling the site between Wellington city and Kelburn Campus.
The architectural outcome provides a sophisticated symbolism of the meaning of University when moving through the campus expansion: one transitions from experiencing the visual indication of how learning occurs to the personal experience of it. A constant transparent process of reciprocal visibility, legibility, communication and understanding.