Monday, June 22, 2009

What is the difference between an office and an educational building?

Just back from a very brief trip to Belfast, where I was taken around the new(ish) Faculty of Art and Design building at the University of Ulster. Here is another project with a very clear underlying diagram (see previous comments on Telford College, Edinburgh). It is a series of open floor planes around two atria, like a huge number 8. At first glance it seems to be based on the layout and language of a shared coporate office space, with cafes and display space on the ground floor and then a variety of sizes of glazed-in an open 'boxes' above, providing offices, seminar and studio spaces.

But the difference lies in how the spaces are connected. There are many varieties of relationship, mostly emphasising openness. So staff offices are glazed, to overlook one of the voids down to the returns desk of the library. Others have no windows, others have few walls. Many walls finish just above head level, and some overlooked rooms have no ceilings.

In some spaces, these varations seem to work together, particularly the top floor spaces of the under-graduate architecture school (at least at this moment when it is being used for exhibition.)

But overall, it is as if there has been no real engagement in the specific characteristics of education, particularly art and design education. There is no acknowledgement of the complexities of sharing, ownership, belonging, security and privacy at different scales/different locations/times for both staff and students. The IMAGE of openness is lovely, the realities much more less successful. Sound travels everywhere, uncontrolled. If stuff is left out its messiness is on show to the world (and easy to steal), but there is no way to hide it away/store it appropriately.

Education is not an office, nor merely a more flexibly and artistically arranged version of one.

No comments:

Post a Comment