If university buildings are designed as siloed developments, they will never be more than the sum of their parts
Focusing on a project to create a large new university campus from scratch, I started to think about the theoretical works of Christopher Alexander again. He had a big impact on me as a student, especially in his analysis of what makes a successful neighbourhood, town and city.
A new campus, with its residential accommodation, leisure, work, health and communal facilities is a town, or at least a neighbourhood, in its own right. Alexander’s theories attempt to reveal the complex and layered relationships between different facets of a vibrant city in order that we might understand how to make new places that are full of richness, variety and meaning.
A new campus, with its residential accommodation, leisure, work, health and communal facilities is a town, or at least a neighbourhood, in its own right
I’m writing this on a train returning from a meeting in a modern office block on a large business park that is lifeless at night, has very limited social and welfare facilities, poor public transport and disregards the needs of pedestrians.
It is this sort of siloed, mono-use, zoned development which increasingly constitutes much of our collective urban experience: the very realisation of what Alexander referred to as, ‘the deadness that is everywhere’.
I’m determined that this new campus will be more than the sum of its parts. This will require a great deal of collaboration, determination and vision from everyone involved. Reading Alexander again has inspired me for the challenge ahead.
Philip Watson is design director at Atkins