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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 25. 3rd October 1973

Who needs Von Zedlitz ?

page 5

Who needs Von Zedlitz ?

The next major building project on Victoria campus will be the Von Zedlitz Tower, which is to be a ten-storey building sited at 26 and 28 Kelburn Parade. It is the first stage of a project which will eventually embrace most of the lower part of Kelburn Parade.

The total scheme is designed to allow the university to accommodate a roll of 10,000 students. The various stages after the Von Zedlitz Tower do not yet have a completion date, but are planned to be completed as they are required and as the necessary funds become available. If the funds become available at faster rate than the student roll rises the University will certainly make use of the space. The university authorities would ideally like to see a staff-student ratio of half the current figure.

The Von Zedlitz Tower is planned to be used by the departments of sociology and of language and literature.

I cannot be denied that the university has a pressing problem of shortage of space. But does it follow that the type of development typified by the Von Zedlitz Tawer and the rest of the Kelburn Parade scheme, is the ideal sort for Victoria? Must it be accepted that it is the only possible one?

Many of the planning assumptions and objectives behind the Von Zedlitz Tower have practical and preferable alternatives. The overriding objective of present planning is having the maximum number of lecture theatres and main buildings in as compact an area as possible all preferably linked by covered passageways. This diminishes the grassed area on campus, as what courtyards that would exist within the main area would be paved. One reason for this is to keep the lecture change period down to ten minutes. If the campus were more spread out a longer period might prove necessary. A more dubious reason is the wet and windy Wellington climate.

These planning objectives have effects beyond the physical environment of learning. If priority at the campus's centre is given to academic requirements then it will be no surprise that facilities such as the creche are so far from the centre. Similar difficulties over the placing of a marae will occur.

When considering developments such as the Von Zedlitz Tower something more than aesthetics are at stake. The very concept and function of the university must be determined. If a university is to be nothing more than a 'learning factory' then the Von Zedlitz Tower is fine, but if the university is to be a place with a social dimension involving all aspects of student life, then some other type of development is called for.

The university must recognise that the Kelburn area is essentially residential, and should adopt a type of development that would fit this background. This does not mean that future growth should or could be accommodated in houses which were not originally designed for university use, though it is worth realising that moving into Von Zedlitz would probably meet with mixed reactions from the department involved. While some such as sociology will be happy to shift closer to campus, others like classics and German will be happier where they are.

Future development should be of the low-rise type. Modern city planning has several ways of achieving high-density usage with relatively low-rise structures. There should in addition be a recognition that in the life of the student the social role of the university is very important, and a policy which gives it low priority is likely not only to stunt the personal growth of the student but is likely to be self-defeating, in that it will result in an environment likely to hurt the learning function of the university.

The Von Zedlitz plans as they stand have met with strong disapproval from the City Council, which has requested an environmental impact report before building permits are issued. While the university has in the past tried to meet council objections, its schemes are government projects and hence they are not obliged to do so.

An environmental impact report should be insisted upon now for the entire Kelburn Parade scheme. This involves three towers, one of which is two stories higher than Von Zedlitz is planned to be. It clearly makes no planning sense for the council to have to approve the scheme bit by bit as the university needs building permits. It is the environmental results of the project as a whole which are the most important, and therefore the project should be reviewed now in total for its total impact.

B. Symondson

Environmental Officer 555-814