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Design Review: Volume 4, Issue 5 (October-November 1952)

Work by the Wellington Technical College School of Architecture

page 118

Work by the Wellington Technical College School of Architecture

During 1952, Studio work in Architecture has been given a trial in Wellington. For no prizes in the shape of examination passes, and in spite of the burden of their examination subjects–written subjects to be sat in November and Testimonies of Study throughout the year–a large number of students attended the Studio course at the Wellington Technical College.

A great deal of work was done in the limited time and this was recently seen in a public exhibition held at the College.

The New Zealand Institute of Architects has recently approved the submission of work from this Studio in lieu of the first three years of Testimonies of Study for an initial period of two years, and a course has been decided upon for 1953. In his first year the student will discover for himself how visual design has a common background in all the arts. He will learn the principles of design without immediately relating page 119 them to a particular architectural problem. The first year projects are all of an abstract nature. There are no complicated problems of deciding how people would react in a given set of circumstances, of how builders could construct or how materials behave. These problems occur in every architectural project and for a student straight from secondary school they can be bewildering and often confusing. There is such a complexity of considerations in architectural design to-day that it was decided to dispense with all but the fundamentals in the very early stages.

So the student learns how balance can be achieved by the arrangement of shapes in coloured card, how various different effects can be found when certain shapes oppose each other or combine. How a composition can hang together by a very careful adjustment of position. In effect, composition, unrelated to ‘things’.

This experimenting under guidance continues from the basic two-dimensional objects, through colour and light and into three dimensions. When a student can, quite naturally and without self-conscious effort, make a three-dimensional coloured model which has the spatial and sculptural qualities seen in good furniture, good sculpture and good architecture, a start is made with equipping him with the practical knowledge necessary before the design of buildings is attempted.

Building materials are examined and it is explained how their individual characteristics can be used to further the aim of the design. The structural qualities of materials and the methods required to use them in buildings are indicated so that a basic knowledge is gained. The use of building materials in historical work is touched upon so that the debt to past builders may not be forgotten.

This is all very theoretical, and without a definite link with buildings, would lead to not much more than a general feeling towards aesthetics–the formation of taste. The next stage then is to use the experience gained in designing simple buildings, such as bus shelters where the requirements of the human being using the structure are not complicated. The putting together of pieces of building material to form pleasant and useful shapes becomes easier when the student can see and understand the problem without bein gintimidated by those unknown quantities which only greater experience or research can solve.

The first illustrations are of the initial composition of masses and experiments with shapes. There has been great care and deliberation in the exact placing of each piece. This is carried a step further in the next illustration where a model has been built embodying the above and bringing in the third dimension and light and colour. It is not meant to represent anything–it is simply something to look at and walk round.

On this page is the result of the second stage–that of introducing a ‘use’ or a ‘reason’ into the problem. In this Children's Play Shelter it can be seen that the abstract quality remains but that the use of the building was the starting point. There can be seen a distinct relationship between the pattern of the walls with the first exercises and of the whole building with the abstract model.

The method used has taught the students not only how to find an approach to design but also has given them some sort of appreciation of architecture. At least there is a common language in aesthetic consideration; there is also the beginning of understanding of what goes towards making a design. The ‘mystery’ of the Artist is not necessarily dispelled–rather does the student know that ‘inspiration’ is the result of hard and exacting labour and not something vaguely labelled ‘intuition’.