design: complex - week 8 review transcript

Wednesday 22 Sept 2010, Building 201 (Blue Carpet Level), Curtin University.
FJE (student), S (lecturer), A (guest critic)

F: um ok well my initial moves I suppose were... I wanted to... I kind of like how the site was with its railway lines, bus station and horseshoe bridge and so I decided to keep those things and leave the City and Northbridge divided from each other, so I've... turned the horseshoe bridge into this inhabited bridge with this element which comes around the bridge. Then the foyer comes up here to the main auditorium, which is also serviced by these back of house areas which split along the railway line. Trucks can come up here. All the workshops go up towards the auditoriums, the performers areas are housed along here. In terms of edges I've responded to this edge of Northbridge here with these elements here, there will probably be non-opera house program here in the ground level to try to integrate the building into the city more.
A: Is that that the railway?
F: That's right. So they've already sunk one line which links up to the underground station, so I've left that sunk as it is now, but the other one is still on the surface.
A: So does this [indicates model] become part of the building program?
F: No it's staying as a bus station. I've looked at integrating it into the program but I haven't really found something more useful for it than it being a bus station. the building connects with it here, but it sort of sits slightly apart from the building I suppose, but as close as it can still allowing for the buses. With the elimination of the this platform here, you can come up off the platform and come up onto this bridge. This becomes a large public square suitable for performances and things, there's a smaller and much more intimate square on the Northbridge side - that corner always gets so packed with people because they are coming across, I think there is an opportunity there to make it something larger and more interesting
S: So what's the core idea?

F: This idea of keeping the things that are on the site, having a building that really integrates with the linear fluidity of the site, and making this inhabited bridge. Also, elevating - I put this main auditorium up in the air to give the building a greater presence in the city because I think it's a relatively small building in the context especially in height if its spread out thinly across the site.
A: I think there's some potentially interesting things going on. I just wonder if there... just it's very much still a collection of parts struggling to fit within a context that you've set which...I think it can work either way; it can continue to look awkward like the model looks a bit awkward now because it is these bits I suppose; or it can tie together the context a little bit more. I think it's a shame perhaps to keep the bus station as an operating bus station because I just don't think...I mean it's going to be phased out for a reason, to double up with the bus port down on the esplanade potentially is a bit of a... you're not reusing the existing building material. I'm quite intrigued about the concept of keeping the rail line. I mean obviously the money you're going to save there you pay for this thing, is there the potential in that to draw on the wider context - do you arrive at this theatre as the only way of getting here?
F: um
A: are things made out in the midland workshops and they arrive here by rail; the stage set or something. I think there's gotta be... perhaps you can draw on a wider context by keeping the things that connect you to a wider context at the moment you're just keeping things.
F: yep keeping the purpose of them as well as the
A: I think you have to, I don't think you can just say I'm keeping the a bus station. when I don't know if that s a it's not necessarily part of the plan for that particular... if you, as the architect, as the inventor and bringer of ideas to the site, with what merit are you making this move?
F: yep um
A: I mean if you look at the site at the moment you know you've got the bus station, this long kind of linear building it's not the most attractive thing you've got the Entertainment Centre at the other end which is this great big circle. These shapes on the site, you've taken the program and connected these bits together...
F: well I think these I find these relics quite interesting I think we need more... I don't think we are allowing for enough layering and ageing in the city and I think if we eliminate... I mean, that was part of an era which if we just...
A: Is it significant? I wouldn't say the bus station is a particularly significant building and at the same time the horseshoe bridge is, luckily, and you are effectively consuming that as part of the building program, so your kind of doing two things which are working slightly against each other. I'm sort of intrigued by the scheme but I think at the moment it's still a collection ideas; you're sort of bringing these concepts together and I think the projects struggling because your jamming them into spaces that you're finding are left over by keeping the bus station, by keeping the rail, and by consuming the horseshoe bridge.
S What's your response to that set of questions?
F: I guess you've said it's a collection of parts... I'd intentionally made it a collection parts... like I've sot of looked at all these things that that are happening on the site, and trying to get the very linear feel of them and bring that out in the architecture so that you can so it kind of celebrates what this site is. I think the bus station is valuable. Maybe I've got to try and sell that more effectively... it's getting old and tired and needs some restoration, and the Northbridge Link does call for a new bus station to be built, but an underground one, I don't see that we have to... I think part of our life in the modern city is catching trains, catching buses, doing those things - I don't see that we have to push it underground... I think we can keep it there and I think we can keep using this building which has been part of the city for 40 years and has done a good job so far and it's got very ...pretty interesting experience ion the way that its fluid and kind of goes up and down you get different views on different things- you know, you see buses come up out of the ground and I'm trying to get that into the rest of the building, you come up this, go up that, you come up from the train station with these slopes...
A: Maybe the scheme at the moment suffers... maybe there'd be a trick in both modelling and diagramming the scheme so everything existing is one colour so that there is a contextual alignment; rail, bus station and horseshoe bridge as literally the anchors of what you're pinning the... your new growth you've put in, and then maybe you use those as a kind of characterisation that they're all forms of transport, they link everything together, so effectively what you're then putting in place is a new ribbon of linkage were you partly use these, and partly use the rail... or go skirting along the rail, and the horseshoe bridge and then your programmatic spaces of theatre and workshops and so on are a third element; so you've got the existing context, the stuff that enhances - which is your new ribbon of connection, and then a program. I think as soon as you diagram it like that you might find a means of giving identity to certain pieces. The way its modelled at the moment, there's not a great deal of clarity to it. I think the lack of a plan unfortunately... an actual programmatic plan, it's a difficult project to get your head around to say the least as just a normal square building in an open field site, but you've made it more complicated by keeping the context, which I think... you know, I can't criticise that, I think that is definitely your standpoint and maybe make so much more out of it... ok that's a fine drawing in as much as this is a kind of picture post-card drawing of how it looks in its context, but the thing is that's one aspect of it; the main aspect is actually putting yourself in, putting yourself sitting on a train going through the building, putting yourself arriving by bus, putting a car going past the horseshoe bridge in the immediate context you're creating. It's not so much the perhaps big picture stuff like the urban scale and the standing back at the street and looking at what you've created, it's the macro of' how do these things touch one another'?
F: Yep I'm definitely excited to be getting to that stage...
A: You know talk about this collection of objects when you go to see a valuable collection it's typically behind glass you sort of stand by and to assist people it's often diagrammed as well; you'll have 75 species of parrot in front of you, all stuffed, but each one will be... you'll look, numbered 13 is the so-and-so and it becomes... the information is there, easily available and you get it straight away. So how as the user...what sort of cues, relationship cues are they going to take away? Materials the first place I'd start - you've got the bus shelter that's a tin shed, you've got the horseshoe bridge which is this beautiful brick structure, you've got the railway which is a very much engineered culvert and powerlines and so on; how does that sort of character feed back into the building rather than inventing stuff. I don't think you need to invent, I think it's already there it's just a question of bring it all together. Is this a new brick building [indicates inhabitable bridge]? Is everything in relationship with the bus a new steel shed? It's all there - how are you then bringing it together? you don't necessarily need to invent, you just need to find it.
F: Yeah i was thinking... I have been considering my material approach, I haven't had the chance to bring it to the project yet, i was thinking something like a collage of the city would lend itself quite well to these to this kind of dragging up bits of the city, twisting it together.
S: I think for me you're still yet to make a convincing argument as to why. So are you keeping these existing artefacts on the grounds that we keep demolishing things, so we should stop that, we should just give everything a 50 year life and then decide. Are you keeping them on environmental grounds, that's its wasteful to build something and then replace it with something just the same size 20 or 30 years later... by the way these are not questions I want you to answer now, because I want to have the chance to talk... are you doing it because there's this fine line between keeping things like the railway line; which is really creating, potentially, a problem; designing a problem into being is different to building on a rich urban opportunity, and I think you're yet to make the argument for whether you've designed these problems into being - the retention of the bus-port, the railway line at grade, and the stapling of a new inhabitable bridge up against the horseshoe bridge so the question of why is still resonating in my head; that's one thing. Secondly; there's a chunkiness to all of the parts..well the idea of an inhabitable bridge on the edge of a bridge that exists that could be inhabitable already... does it degrade the presence of the horseshoe bridge by building an inhabitable bridge? That's the first question. Secondly you've talked about that bridge being a corridor with shops each side, so that basically takes all the foot-traffic of the horseshoe bridge and into yours, and I don't think you can afford to -'
F: No I'm not going to-
S: -cause a problem for pedestrians -
F: -I'm proposing to put a line of shops along the side of the horseshoe bridge.'
S: Also, you're inventing programs to solve a problem, and I think I'm happy for people to take risks, but it's got to be convincing and I'm still not sure if you're quite there yet. I think the location of the foyer is very questionable. It's completely out of the public mind, by being stuck up in the air, many many many metres away from any public place or sense of ground. And then I start to worry about these immense pockets... you're kind of creating terraine-vague space through the design of your building, I don't think you can afford to do that - some of those pockets I worry about. As a plus side I wonder if your project is a large kind of halo that lassoes some of these bits together, that maybe offers a new life, a new possibility for the bus station, a new way of reading, or thinking about, or understanding the experience of the horseshoe bridge as well as dealing with the program and the ground plane and the train line. So you've basically got the bits in around about the right place, apart from, I think, the foyer, and these cavernous spaces underneath the large auditorium, but I think you've now got to kind of stitch those together. I think your building tries to resolve these conditions of bus station, horseshoe bridge and train line, and by it being so varied at every point of its various bits of program, it's not actually bringing about a resolution, it's just adding more complication to the whole thing, so I wonder if you're trying to resolve these junctions of these three existing conditions, maybe the building, your project, needs to be more singular in kind of lassoing or tying these things together, rather than being different at every point, and therefore creating a whole bunch of other spatial conditions and urban conditions to be solved by someone else, at some future time. Does that make sense?
F: Mostly. I think you did lose me a bit on the 'different at every point' . What do mean by 'problems to be solved later'?
S: Well I mean I think this is a problem someone else will have to come and solve later [indicates on model], I think this is a problem someone else will have to come and solve later [indicates on model], I think this is a problem someone else will have to come and solve later [indicates on model], just because they're left over and not resolved. So your project, by trying to sew these three conditions together, and resolve this project as a significant site and a series of urban layers; you can't afford to then create three new conditions for someone else to come along later and go 'oh we've got to fix up Frazer Macfarlane's mistakes. Because he was about trying to fix up these other mistakes, yet he created three more.
F: yep.
S: And that you celebrate those existing conditions in some way. You're yet to create I think a clear argument for doing those things, other than saying you like the idea of keeping them.
A: I think then you introduced an idea which might be creating a problem for you, which was you then... well you took away the link, you said you weren't interested in the link between Northbridge and the City, that's fine, that's your standpoint, because you're keeping the rail and the bus station, but then on top of that you said 'then I wanted to elevate the theatre, to give it some presence', and I think that second idea maybe doesn't carry as much weight as the first. The second idea is just a wish-list item, and it's creating problems for you, because I think the approach to the building, to elevate something, just creates all sorts of issues. Something elevated that's in a hill side that you have to get to anyway is not an issue, but something that is literally up in the air, creates immense access issues. How do 2000 people come to the building, in an event? And then in the 6 days of the week when it's not in operation as a theatre, what is the 5th or 6th elevation down here actually give back to the city, other than an area for a bunch of hoodies to hang out and skate around in. If that's the intention in the design-
S: That's right.
A: but otherwise if you're not thinking about it then you ground the building. Look, go to the Perth Concert Hall, I mean, it's an old building but there's a sense of approach and grandeur to it, and there is a slight level change, especially from the river side; there's quite a significant level change, and it is a set of large stairs, and you're approaching something and you can see it coming, and you can imagine that when you are there to see a show, and everyone's in their finery and they've going there because they've got [unclear]. It feels special. At the moment, this entry hinging of that corner of the horseshoe bridge doesn't exactly, you know, mean to me - how does a dignitary arrive in a limo? Where do they park? How do they get to it?
S: But the horseshoe Bridge is a great place to enter.
A: Yeah!
S: At the upper level, or the ground level, but you're not entering at the ground level or the horseshoe bridge level, but up here, so I think you could resolve the connection between the horseshoe bridge and the ground through an entrance, not say I'll worry about them some other time and create another level up here... So like Andrea, I see... I'm intrigued by this project and it's proposition, but I think at the moment the proposition is a bit unclear, but I think that there's really nice...there is potentially a really nice set of ideas in it, based on that, and I think that I am intrigued by various kind of moves and the different parts but it's unwieldy - I'm worried that you're creating more problems rather than addressing-
A: I think we are learning from our mistakes, there's a reason why a number of these kind of elevated places in Perth are disappearing, like that link back into Northbridge from the bus station and the train station. The reason why we're putting everything back underground is to embrace... or just make it easy for people to walk at the same grade across from one point to another. That was a move made in the Eighties through Forrest Chase, through the bus station and so on, and it's turning in, it's become sort-of a disaster...whether to sink everything is the right answer, if you've got the money - but whether to hide all of that, our infrastructure, I agree, whether that's the right answer, I don't know, but it certainly creates an ease of access
S: Certainly in Forrest Place they're not sinking it, they're just removing stupid bridges that were put up on there for no really good reason other than Houston was doing it at the time we were doing it, then they realised hey, this is a really bad idea. Urbanistically, spatially, bridges are awful, it takes pedestrian life off the ground and sticks them into these terrible places, so I think...
F: It takes them past the shops though-
S: Well, they ended it at Albert Facey House
F:-that was probably the only good thing about it
S: Well, it was.
A: Well it was, they doubled up on their site frontage.
S: Anyway, we gotta move on.
A: We gotta move on.
S: Thanks.
Recorded by Mary Ong.


AJH said...

Fantastic recording by Mary, wow, I feel like I was there, I can pretty much imagine the tone of the three characters. Hope the clarity has been progressing well with the drawings. I really like everything you have said, it does sound like you need a bit more hierarchy to the explanation of the design ideas at that stage, however it also sounds like SP and AVS were really getting interested and they had sooo many suggestions and good points- all in all a pretty good review, good crit!!

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