Art in Context / Interchange
The word URBAN denotes a sense of “ being in the city” or “of the city”. The City of Perth forms the basis for the exploration of urban issues. In particular, the urban phenomenon of flux and exchange is explores, identifying the transformation of data/information within the various structures of the city. In this sense the city become an INTERCHANGE.
The thesis sited at Northbridge, Perth, is an URBAN RESPONSE designed to fill a CULTURAL, ARTISITC & INSTITUTIONAL VOID in the city. Urban textures, responses are abundantly experiences in the commercial entertainment zones/districts. Such urban nodes exude certain energies, or flows. Unique gathering points, corner junctions, shop-front events and imageries and the unexpected mobility of street dynamics, all form paths of flows. These transformations were mapped onto a material surface (via photography). In contrast, urban “barrenness”, or emptiness, is also localised immediately when one crosses the salient threshold over the railway towards the cultural centre. It becomes deserted. That level of energy that is supposedly the character of Northbridge, is nowhere to be found. The “barrenness” is what I have come to define as the “void”.
The PROGRAMME is developed as an antithesis of the actual functions o and requirements of the Art institutions. These functions are further manipulated in a manner that pro-facilitates the work of the INTERCHANGE. There are new RELATIONSHIPS that are defined in the workings of the INTERCHANGE.
The study of architectonics, as a form of interchange, further explores the relationship of the existing cultural interface against the artistic mode of spatial conception. Art, a broad-based cultural phenomenon, is set against the institutional space of the academia/institution and juxtaposed. Architectural models are devised, cased on the superimposition of the various modes onto each other to reveal an overall re-interpretation of art, the institution and of the urban fabric (the city).
The author attempts to examine how the thesis, beyond the architectural design of TAFE School of Art and Design situated iv the periphery f the Perth City Cultural Centre, can enhance the urban and cultural experience. The concept takes cognisance of the Pedestrian Mall, the 2.5 metres level difference across the site and its adjacent built forms.
The design, therefore, engages the Pedestrianised Mall linking the railway station to the proposed school. The concept of exhibition courtyard suggests an inward-looking plan, almost cloister-like, private, yet paradoxically public. The pedestrian access on grade at three corners provides answers do for the design articulations. However, the opening along Aberdeen Street where the Café is positioned attempts to address the visual link but could have been bolder and pronounced.
The plan aligned by 3-4 storey studios with access corridors and a bridge redefines the cloister effect and give focus to the exhibition plaza. The bridge intervention, a continuation id an overhead link from the existing school, splits the courtyard and enables a subtle spatial divide for related cultural activities to co-exist.
The courtyard or plaza sets the stage, as it were, for display of Art works in the raw from students’ art objects to public. Displays will be constantly changing and will add colour to the spaces. The varying steps into the courtyard suggest a formal and yet casual space for visitors to rest. Ponder and absorb the exhibits on display. The steps could have been extended to the Café and the idea would have been better reinforced. The cloister access at the upper levels, a bird’s eye view of the exhibits, enables viewing and enjoyment from another dimension.. The vertical links or doglegged staircase into the courtyard is utilitarian and could perhaps have been made more interactive if stretched parallel with the inner courtyard edges. In this way , the visitors or students using the stairs to move from ceramics to café, painting to interior and graphic studios, etc., will get to engage continuously with the courtyard and its exhibits on ascent or descent .
Vehicular movement , parking and delivery are confined cleverly and neatly to the north corner avoiding conflict with pedestrian movements. Photography and film studios, which require less lighting are sensibly positioned at the lower level where part of these accommodations sit two thirds below grade. The Café, which faces the Mall, used by students, brings texture, colour and vibrancy to this corner of the building. It attracts yet at the same time announces the beginning of a new experience that galvanised the urban connection between the pedestrian mall and the sunken courtyard that unfolds students’ artwork.
Drawing and painting spaces at the top most levels are sensibly and critically positioned for natural lighting and hence, the skylights provided. This has in turn translated into an appropriate imagery and from that benefits its purpose.
The design, a simple solution without getting into architectural gymnastics, provides a neat and direct answer to how architecture can contribute to urban design beyond its own programmatics.