Monthly Archives: March 2007

(post)modern?

Peter Entwisle in the ODT today (Mon 5 March) outlined some concerns with the proposed stadium design.

His article, more than any other recently, highlights the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” adage, in particular his somewhat disparaging view of the Caledonian Gymnasium on Anderson Bay Road. The gymnasium, although looking a little lost in its surroundings, is a great piece of architecture. It looks and breaths gymnasium – even assuming a somewhat Soviet-block styled Olympic aesthetic. One only needs to drive past this building to see that it is a gymnasium; that rolling, tumbling, jumping, stretching and contorting takes place in that building. I love this building (I can’t stand the curtains, but can only assume they are needed), and if I won lotto… Actually I know next to nothing about this building, anyone with information please enlighten us all?

AndyBay Gym
(My rather hurried photo while dodging the traffic today)
AndyBay gym
(Detail, just missing the gap in the curtains which suggest the interior and climbing bars)

His preference for a revivalist postmodern sensibility, seems – well – stuck in the past (for want of a better term). In reference to the new stadium being ‘this generation’s railway station’ as has been bandied about recently, I wouldn’t assume for one minute then that the stadium should look to the past (while striving forward) as the overriding aesthetic reference. Recent examples of postmodernism can be seen in the University of Otago’s Commerce Building.

Otago Commerce Building
(Universty of Otago Commerce Building detail)

Where (as pointed out by Mr Entwisle) the railway station exudes quality (finest materials), solidity and confidence, the Commerce Building (being rather apt) is brash postmodernism, without any of the qualities of style and quality (anyone who has been ‘rained’ on in the glass atrium only needs to know what I am on about). Rather than taking a cue from its environs, the Commerce Building has a nod towards American postmodernism; Robert Graves’ Portland Public Service building and the AT&T building by Philip Johnson. These buildings take on more sculptural forms rather than the current trend towards organic as expressed in ‘cyber architecture’, as seen in the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum and FrankGehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA.

Entwisle makes reference to the stadium design looking as if it should have been built in the 1960s of mid-20th century modernism. This is a successful language that has survived fad and trend, with a revival evident in civic and private architecture worldwide today. Take for instance, the sweeping new University of Otago Library (sorry Information Services Building). Referencing mid-century Modern with confidence and elegance, it also speaks to its function in a stunning package. This is one building that delights as much from the inside as it does from the outside (let’s hope that the new stadium does this no matter what the final form may be).

University of Otago Information Services Building

This aside, as a stadium is a stadium, it should have architectural references, it should pay homage to location and history, but it should also be what it is, a place of conflict and battle, of courage and emotion. I am certain this will not be a Sydney Opera House – it’s a sports stadium.

Not wanting to stray too much from the primary focus of this blog, the design and architecture of the new ‘Carisbrook’, one cannot argue form without function (without digressing into the ‘burden on the taxpayer’ issues). Hence, architecture aside, Entwisle has doubts about uses (as many in this city have). However, his concerns from the ‘arts’ world would seem to be rather amorphous. This is a building with many functions, with the overriding ability to host (preferably large) sporting occasions. I cannot see criticism coming of the art gallery’s lack of a 100m running track as holding any ground. His arguments seem somewhat hollow, for surely events not destined for the main arena could be housed within atrium or other spaces within this building (if available). I could see the ID Fashion week using this space as an extension of what they use at the Railway station presently – it’s on the same lines. For those that way inclined, one could imagine several hundred kilted pipers marching up and down the grass with a military tattoo of some kind. What’s to stop us pinching the Ellerslie flower show one year?

As for the mirroring of criticism from other venues that the stadium would struggle to hold large entertainment acts, I find this just a little too defeatist (and buying into what would be our competitors’ arguments). A promoter with the prospect of a guaranteed ‘fine’ location, and a young student population, would be foolish to ignore. We here, fly up to Auckland to see acts (heck we even fly to Aussie to see acts if they are silly enough to ignore us). What’s to stop those from the North getting on a plane to Dunners, spending the night at say Coldplay or even (hmmm) Elton John, then heading off to Queenstown for the weekend and flying home. What’s to say there wouldn’t be a Mini Day Out (some of the acts have always expressed their preference to come south). Acoustics in these buildings are passable – but sure, no Sydney Opera House. I saw The Eagles in GM Place in Vancouver, an ice hockey stadium – it worked.

I agree, its form needs to be redressed, and those in cricket really do need consider the attractiveness of a guaranteed ‘fine’ one-dayer. Wellington has the cake-tin and the basin, we too could have both options, the first-class venue for the sedate ‘county cricket – village green’ feel and the stadium for the brash noisy entertainment of the one-dayer. To suggest that because it doesn’t look like $188 million, it must change is just a little bizarre (gold plating anyone?).

Posted by Paul Le Comte

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Further initial thoughts, HOK Sports Architects

One of the main things that has bothered me about this whole process is, with such a large amount of money going into this project, why isn’t this being thrown open to an international design competition.

Internationally this isn’t small change, and the alure and qudos of such a project in NZ would attract many a great local and international architect, god knows we’ve all scribbled on a napkin at some stage and called it a house.

This isn’t some backwater knock-up, this is a big-time soon to be world class construction project, and for HOK to be driving this thing just seems too dammed limiting. One could only imagine what Warren and Mahoney, Lord Foster or even our very own Mason and Wales would have come up with it the oportunity arose.

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A call to design arms!

Hi All,

this is of course the obligatory first post. Nothing to say at this stage which wasn’t said in the email 5 mins ago, but as they say in racing parlance “we’re off…”

To find out more, of course go to the about page.

This is a forum for ideas, not a personal web site and of course the ideas and words expressed on this blog may not necessarily be those of me, the university or even the city of Dunedin, but they need to be heard.

If it gets nasty, it’s gone, so lets keep it clean and pens to the ready. We want ideas!

I will be open to people requesting to be able to post (at this stage you will need to ask first), but this isn’t about me in any way shape of form, it’s about us, so comment away.

Final word. The image of the Beijing Olympic Stadium is not a design preference for Stadium Dunedin, I just like it – OK.

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