Anuradha Chatterjee, Sydney Correspondent
As the curator of BE | X-Section Real Needs | Imagined Solutions, the UNSW Built Environment’s Exhibition for the Sydney Architecture Festival, it was interesting to showcase student projects from a range of Built Environment discipline degree programs that demonstrate shared awareness of social responsibility, collaboration, innovation, and most importantly an interdisciplinary knowledge base. These qualities, orientations, and attitudes contribute to the making of the UNSW Built Environment design students as intrepid graduates of global citizenship who understand and engage with the complexities of working with others in seeking creative solutions to real needs and issues identified by communities.
BEOutThere! electives capture the Interdisciplinary Service Learning in the Faculty of Built Environment, as they are carried out in collaboration with community partners with the expressed aim of exposing students to challenging social issues and considerations. In 2011 and 2012, key projects included: North Penrith Plaza – Designing a Digitally Enabled Public Domain; Northcott Project; Schools Project (Crown Street Public School, Ungarie Central School, and Tullibigeal Central School). The outcome and merit of these electives is the discernible and compelling nature of the interactions and the engagement evidenced in student reflections. Likewise, the significance of real world, industry-linked projects also informs Integrated Low Carbon Living Project. Delivered as a team based collaborative project between students from BE and Faculty of Engineering students, the studio presents the opportunity to design the Material Science and Engineering Building, UNSW with attention to low energy, passive design strategies design with zero net-energy and zero net-water consumption as the goal.
Student works in the Socially Responsible Packaging demonstrate a range of approaches to packaging – the liminal and the most intimate threshold between the user and the product. The projects address contemporary issues of safety, convenience, and access by synthesizing aesthetics, functionality, and ethical response. Inclusive Architecture progresses a similar argument that inclusive design (also known as universal design, design for all, user-centred design, human-centred design) “is no longer a niche or unimportant endeavour”. Student projects which suggest inclusive redesigns of key twentieth century buildings demonstrate that architectural merit is not irreconcilable with these goals.
The Intersection: Redevelopment of the SEU School of Architecture Building and its Landscape brings together students from three programmes (architecture, interior, and landscape) to make sense of the tectonic, landscape and interior conditions of the Southeast University and the School of Architecture as a cultural and historical phenomenon, to inform redevelopment proposals. In contrast, it is the post traumatic urbanist lens that informs the Landscape Urbanism for the Shattered Garden City: Christchurch. The fractures caused by natural disasters insert not only irreconcilable ruptures but also the opportunity for the new. Fittingly then, the students explore possibilities for city’s open space system and for vitalizing that with the proposals for an urban arena with sport or performance facility, facilities for both having been extensively damaged across the city. Interior projects in the City of Sydney need to maintain an orientation to urbanism. Taylor Square Bicycle Hub is one such project, and the student projects demonstrate unique and meaningful approaches that seek translations of the figure of the bicycle as 1) a mechanical assemblage and meticulous orchestration of parts; 2) bicycle as generative of movement systems, motion, travelling, and energy; and 3) bicycling as a social sport that not only activates the urban area but also highlights the uniqueness of the site.
Generated by students in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, the exhibition demonstrates shared commitment, knowledge systems, and capabilities. BE | X-Section reveals that unlike the technological, formal ingenuity and production orientation enabled and rewarded in many architecture and design schools across the globe, socially responsive design and architecture in its attention to authenticity emerges out of vital creative engagements between built environment designers and many people – it emphasizes intent over form, process over outcome, shared knowledge over individualistic expertise and action over representation.