The project operates with two basic acts: to stay and to walk, both as generators of new encounters. It explores how intentioned use of movement patterns and open space structure are fundamental to accomplish active and attractive public spaces in a university campus. As well as in urban places, campus open space should embody the dimensions of the encounter but encouraged by academic discussion and dialogue. This complementary duality between university and public space has existed since the Peripatetic Academia of Aristotle.
Consequently, University is a place not only for lectures or lab experiments but for embedding all less structured dimensions of social life. Therefore campuses can be conceived of as a system of distinct public places with different hierarchies, working on both a local and a global level, where interactions must produce new knowledge and support social networking.
The site is the Campus San Joaquin of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, in Santiago. It is a fifty hectare campus surrounded by industries and low income dwellings. Approximately ten thousand students commute daily for classes, mostly by car.
The Campus is highly segregated. It works as a collection of autonomous units with strong local integration but weak identifcation as a whole. There is no clear order of movement systems and open space is commonly residual. Students say the campus is boring and with few interaction opportunities.
The project consists of a new configuration for public spaces and restructured movement systems, and the proposal of a major gathering place - Student Center - which crystallises the new order and gives shape to a linear and shifted campus core. This public space is a spine and tries to reach north and south borders establishing a new way of entering the campus as well as integrating main pedestrian flows. The Student Center melts in one with the spine and it's heart is placed just in the intersection with the main east-west pedestrian avenue.
The project rehabilitates first floor of campus main pavilions - where the central library occupies the second and third floor - and includes a lower level with new public spaces. It integrates disconnected spaces and existing buildings.
In this project, Julio Poblete faced a problem, which started with an incomplete vision of a non realised campus of the 60's. The challenge undertaken, in my opinion, was comprehesively solved. He devised an urban design strategy for Universidad Catolica's Campus in Santiago's south-east periphery, which reorganised its main public spaces plus its principal buildings, pedestrian and vehicular connectors, as well as parking and gateways.
Within this strategy, combining public spaces and circulation links, he devised a central intervention, the Students Union and Facilities Centre. This project was imagined to focus, concentrate and locate the most important activities of the academic life for students: to remain, interact, to meet and wander.
The project acts as a heart and a pump, thought to provide synergy and connection, which were lacking. Some points adressed were: historical, theoretical (Koolhaas and Maki's ideas were effectively used), functional issues attending to urban context of the campus (encircling periphery, elevated train station), students routines (circulation, interaction and study). He used Bill Hillier's Space Synthax for analysis and also as an effective way to scan and show the possible effects of the proposed Student Centre. Thirdly, I think Julio faced the puzzle of the "space within a space" or the figure - ground contrast, of empty voids and built - in new ground floors, covered halls and walkways and connecting basements, in such a way that the puzzle fit soundly. The project has transformed from what was unfinished and barely designed to what now is fully considered in three dimensions.
The project was complex, but defined as a clear visible scheme. Instead of just working with adding and substracting or rethinking the whole as a rigid and excessively structured proposal. He decided to work with large mixed programs and scattered parts, all unified by a central master intervention, which re-orientates future growth and development and put together gathering places and walkways and clear up vehicular circuits and parking zones. It was well managed considering the problem. He worked hard and had a happy fight.