Archive for architecture

Buildings of Sussex (University)

Posted in Architecture with tags , , , , , on May 24, 2013 by telescoper

Shamelessly ripped off from the University of Sussex Staff News comes an interest snippet. Nearly 50 years after it first came out, the revised Sussex edition of a renowned series of architectural guides is about to be published – with our own Falmer House on the front cover.

Falmer House

The news item goes on

The Sussex volume of Sir Nikolaus Pevsner’s comprehensive and authoritative 46-volume series was first published in 1965. It includes seven pages on the “uncompromising” 1960s Sussex architecture by Sir Basil Spence – the subject of an exhibition on campus in 2012.

“The campus has worn well,” writes Antram, who is sensitive to the original, listed Spence buildings and those of the later, evolving campus.

“There is a carefully controlled relationship between landscape and buildings, sometimes formal, sometimes informal, the established park and Downland setting omnipresent …

“The buildings are remarkably homogeneous, their leitmotifs being heavy, chunky slabs of in situ cast concrete vaults, often used as bands, contrasted against the red brick walls …

“Roman indeed seems the epic monumentality of the Sussex buildings with their rhythmic arches and grand exterior staircases, even if that formality is softened by the materials and the asymmetrical layout.”

The campus tour of individual buildings begins with Falmer House, the first 1960s building in the country to be given Grade I listed status by English Heritage.

Pevensey 1 is described as “high drama”, the Chichester Lecture Theatre as an “awesomely plain brick drum” and the Library as a “rather brooding presence”.

Swanborough, meanwhile, is “unassuming”, and East Slope consists of 13 “troglodytic blocks stepped up the hillside”.

In my experience, opinions are generally rather divided about the architectural quality of the buildings on the University of Sussex campus. Mine are too, actually. I think the overall plan is wonderful with its accurately aligned central axis visible in the jacket photograph. On the other hand, some of the buildings – especially the John Maynard Smith Building (when I was a student here  it was called BIOLS) is not very good at all and may well be demolished soon to make way for new Science Buildings. I agree that East Slope is dire. The building I am in – Pevensey (formerly MAPS) -is actually rather nice, and most staff seem to like it here. My favourite building on the campus, however, is the Library; largely because Sussex still has a “library” as opposed to a “Learning Resources Unit” or some such nonsense. In any case I don’t find it at all “brooding” so I’m  mystified by that comment.

Some have called it brutalist but I think the relationship between the campus buildings and the surrounding countryside has been managed very sensitively. It’s purely a matter of taste, of course, and no doubt some locals will want to express differing opinions through the comment box!

Pecha Kucha

Posted in Education with tags , , , , , on June 8, 2010 by telescoper

A few months ago I was invited to take part in an evening of Pecha Kucha in a hotel in Geneva. I’ll try anything once, so I agreed. I have to admit, though, that I wasn’t actually very good at it. Neither were any of the other scientists present.

No idea what a Pecha Kucha is? Well then you’re probably not an architect or an artist or a designer. Then again, you’re reading this blog so that’s pretty much a given anyway. Pecha Kucha is a style of presentation at which arty types display their portfolios in a strictly disciplined format. The standard form is twenty slides with twenty seconds allowed for each one, i.e. a total time of 6 minutes and 40 seconds. The timing is ruthlessly regulated.

Those of us scientists used to taking at least a few  minutes per slide find this format very challenging, but then that’s because we tend to have text and equations on our slides and they take some explaining. Designers and the like tend to just show pictures, and these should – if they’re any good – be pretty self-explanatory. I guess this is why the Pecha Kucha format is de rigeur in such disciplines while it has yet to catch on in physics.

I only just survived my initiation into the strange world of Pecha Kucha. Before being told what it was I thought it was a mountain in the Andes. I was reminded about it this morning by a tweet from John Butterworth (a particle physicist who, incidentally, has a nice blog of his own) confessing similar trepidation to what I experienced before I lost my Pecha Kucha virginity. The first time can be disappointing, but I hope he survived his inauguration.

Looking back on it though I think this might be an interesting idea to try in a physics context. We’re trying increasingly hard these to teach our physics and astronomy students transferable skills, but when it comes to presentations we’re fixated by the traditional presentation format. Why not get undergraduate students to do a Pecha Kucha about their project, instead of a 20-minute lecture? Why not include a Pecha Kucha in the PhD viva?

The more I think about it, the more attractive the idea seems. Has anyone out there tried a physics Pecha Kucha?