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3DReid student winner examines the relationship between academia and practice

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August 5 2010

3DReid student winner examines the relationship between academia and practice
A recent 3DReid championed Student Competition won by Alan Keane of the University of Dundee provoked some debate amongst Urban Realm readers. They queried whether real world considerations ought impinge on student work, asking to what degreer academia should be divorced, or married, to the cut and thrust commercial considerations of business and comes as architects spoke of an often “dire” relationship between schools and practices.

Here Keane provides some background to his scheme for a theatre in the shadow of the Scott Monument, Princes Street, and muses upon the dilemma of what an architect (and student) should be.

“With regard to my 5th year thesis project, the premise for this experiment in theatre architecture is to acknowledge the limitations of designing the auditorium as a concluded exercise, to accept specific constraints and then to act on them. At No 3 Waverley Bridge the contrivance of a "sculpted" foyer from the vestigial spaces between four theatres reveals the potential for those volumes to be colonised for theatre and theatricality. It connects four different points on the site: entrances and routes through the building from Princes Street, Waverley Station, Waverley Bridge and Waverley Steps converge in this "city room". The Foyer was the testing of ideas, by an architectural project, specific to this typology - a small continuation in the discourse of theatre design.

“To provide some clarification; the form of the exterior is derived from the placement of the main theatre spaces and their relationship with the city pattern. The opera house is orientated to offer the slender profile of its fly tower to be framed by the New Town grid. The broad profile of the amphitheatre’s fly tower is presented to the dominant mass of its neighbour, the Balmoral Hotel. In order to reduce the perceived scale, the mass of the theatre is carved into to generate a sculptural form, an assembly of smaller elements. This allows the form to shift and respond to variations in scale of the immediate context, while the office and fly towers of the theatre become part of a larger urban ensemble of the Scott Monument, and taller elements of the surrounding buildings; a pattern with a counterpoint across the valley in the Carlton and Scotsman buildings framing North Bridge.

“With specific regard to the question of whether student projects should be constrained by current planning rules, I can appreciate both sides of the debate. I guess my instinct is to refer to a question posed by Georg Franck to architect Christian Kerez; "May we - or, in fact, must we - violate all those good intentions in order to dam the flood of arbitrariness?" I believe it is the responsibility of our University system to uphold its heritage in fostering the capacity of student minds to develop independent and creative thought. A student's duty is in such an environment, to work towards creating new knowledge, or to contribute to existing knowledge. This is done so by the careful selection of challenges and boundaries. Planning restrictions establish an immediate similitude or starting point for all, corroding individual response at a time when the freedom to do so is never so important. Perhaps this is the naive sentiment one might expect from an optimistic student, but I have seen the necessity of compliance and compromise in practice. University offers student architects the opportunity to realise the fruition of their ideas with their integrity intact.

“The suggestion students should be prepared for the realities of working for a living, should in fact force one's opinion on what one believes an architect to be. Are we service-providers to a marketplace or are we something more? I believe we are the heirs to an astounding inheritance, one that is lively and complex, and our Universities are our initiation.

“Architecture is beset always, but perhaps our biggest challenge is to avoid mediocrity.”
A relationship with the surrounding pattern of streets dictated elements of the form
A relationship with the surrounding pattern of streets dictated elements of the form
Placement of the main theatre spaces informs the structure of the exterior
Placement of the main theatre spaces informs the structure of the exterior

7 Comments

Euan
#1 Posted by Euan on 5 Aug 2010 at 16:39 PM
Nice project Alan. If the architecture course were grounded in reality students would be shackled to door detailing and plumbing diagrams.
Anna Gibb
#2 Posted by Anna Gibb on 5 Aug 2010 at 19:48 PM
An excellent point well made Alan, I couldn't agree more. Congratulations on the win!
Dave
#3 Posted by Dave on 6 Aug 2010 at 12:33 PM
An excellent piece of waffle constructed to justify a brief-less project of fancy.

"I believe it is the responsibility of our University system to uphold its heritage in fostering the capacity of student minds to develop independent and creative thought" - Does paying attention to context prevent independent and creative thought? No.
Architecture without reference and sensitivity to (what is such an outstanding)context is what creates disjointed cities.
elmo mac
#4 Posted by elmo mac on 6 Aug 2010 at 13:25 PM
Excellent graphics, lots of good ideas and enthusiasm, and a good subject for debate.
Less commendable is the tiresome arguement that constraints prevent good architecture.
In the wrong hands this does happen. At the other extreme, constraint-free projects like the multitudes produced in pre-crunch Dubai don't exactly help this arguement.
Good architects recognise and embrace constraints imposed by budget, site, timescale, context, legislation, and client- and user-aspirations as grit to generate pearls with.
To ignore these is just self indulgence, something that a lot of academics don't understand, and have difficulty in explaining to students.
Unless you intend to spend your entire career in academia, reality is something to be embraced, not ignored, by architecture graduates.
Bob
#5 Posted by Bob on 6 Aug 2010 at 13:47 PM
Dave, you're a plonker.
Notaplonker
#6 Posted by Notaplonker on 6 Aug 2010 at 16:29 PM
Dave's right of course.
rowan
#7 Posted by rowan on 7 Aug 2010 at 02:54 AM
well said alan.

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