Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 4. 1969.
Men's Vice-President, 1968
During 1968 the Students Association executive approved a scheme for redecorating the Student Union Building.
The purpose of this scheme was to liven the building in places and to make the buildings somewhat subdued and restful in other areas. When this scheme was proposed the basic assumptions underlying the proposals were that students were normal human beings, but who being young were experimenting with living, were loathe to accept any statement of part unless it was proven, loath to accept an opinion unless it was shown to be well based. It was assumed then that students were prepared to accept new criteria in aesthetics and thus new aspects in decoration.
It was also assumed that students do not want a drab dull existence all the time if indeed any of the time.
On the other hand it was accepted that students will require spaces in which they can be intimate if the need arises, where they can be alone or where they and several friends could be separate and unconscious of the 5,000 other students.
The proposition then that the executive of the time accepted endeavoured to represent these ideas. It was then to turn the building in places to decorations more fitting of the 1970s. In other places the idea was to convert the large space in the buildings into places restful.
The proposition as accepted then was:
• That the outside of the building be painted on the outside an RAF blue (RAF blue as prescribed by British Paints Standards). One purpose of this was to soften the stark outline of the present building (this being a property of dark colours). This would also reduce the impact the Union building would have to the entire campus. This would mean that the more mellow and the more attractive buildings on the campus would stand out further. It would also tend to destroy the horizontal line of the Sub and make it more in the line with the vertical lines of the other buildings of campus. (This of course applies only when you can see the Sub in relation to the other buildings). This blue is not such that it could clash with the surrounding green of the trees and shrubs. Indeed the green would show up far more. Modern building materials are now of such quality that any arguments concerning fading, attraction of heat with resulting deterioration in structural support and such like are of little or no validity. These faults develop through the use of inferior materials and bad workmanship.
• The porch and walls of each entrance to the building are to be painted—ceiling and walls—completely in one strong bright colour (e.g. Indian yellow). The effect of this would be dramatic and exciting. On a dark surface these colours would stand out inviting — it were the student to enter and explore this sudden brilliance. (We are not of course concerned with such facetious arguments that such things happen but once—for each time a person looks at the building he will be attracted to the colour to the rest of the building.) The effect must be total—any halfway measures are insipid.
• The next recommendation that the executive made concerned the decoration of the interior passageways of the building. How best could excitement and movement be portrayed. Executive thus recommended that the carpets be of a similar nature and colour to those in the Library, that the walls and ceiling be entirely off white and that super-bannerist or super-graphic band in the colour of the doorway from which the person enters be painted on the walls and ceiling and that each separate room have a lower case 6 in. high directory. Thus a person entering the building from the path by the cementery could enter say a brilliant red doorway. This brilliant colour would be directed into a thinner band of colour that would be directed across the walls and ceiling. By following this band the person would be moved along the passageways. At each separate room the band would branch and end in an arrowhead. Beside the room's entrance there would be decorative expression of where the person had reached in the building. The student may well ask why this mega-decoration. It is new form of the architects' arts. It is an attempt to make by visual means conventional cubic shape of spaces explode and take new shapes. It is an attempt to expand the physical environment into something that acknowledges the reality of man being a small part merely of the universe. It is a reaction against the "good taste" of the "now decor". It makes a space which has no excitement and stimulation become a marvellous experience. What was straight becomes crooked and twisting. We are reminded sometime of the insignificance of our bodies in the total universe. At other times we are all that exists in the space. It is a decoration that always impinges on our senses. It is perhaps a revolution against the ordered regeneration of our lives. It is an attempt to place man in the centre of his environment not machines and regularity. No other form of decoration can achieve this. It happens.
The executive also recommended that the large spaces in the new upstairs common room be broken up by the use of either hanging or freestanding panels. By the use of colour, lettering, messages, photographic murals etc. a whole gamut of human emotions and responses can be accounted for ("from restfulness to motion". This also provides some privacy which is shockingly lacking in the buildings as it is at present. The advantage of this use of space is that the panels can be moved and a wide open space created. The walls and carpets are the same as the passageways without the super-graphics except perhaps in very restricted areas.
Finally, the executive decided that the lavatories and other conveniences 'were to have dark grey floors and walls and dark brown ceilings. After all they too should be an experience. Do not moreover be led into believing that black or dark colours are hard to clean—merely look at the National Mutual Building's foyer in Featherston Street, for the answer is there.
This then was approved by the executive. They thought about this matter and endeavoured to provide the students with a Sub that compares with Auckland's and Christchurch's. The question is are we going to get them. The onus is on all students to get something done about it.