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May 5, 2008 | by  | in Features |
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Campus Development Framework

You may have noticed there’s some construction going on at the Kelburn campus: big trucks, cranes, fluro jackets, hard-hats, and even the provision of portaloos for construction workers. It’s hard to miss. The reason behind the madness, muddied fields and pedestrian diversions: fulfilling the aims of the Campus Development Framework.

The Kelburn campus has been the subject of 30 years of architectural criticism, mocking and insults. In 1982 Architecture Professor Helen Tippet described it as “the worst campus in the developed world.” Ouch. After years of put-downs, in August 2006 the University released the Campus Development Framework (CDF). The 40 page document articulates the obvious – that the Kelburn campus is in dire need of a spruce up.

The CDF outlines the direction of Victoria’s development until 2016. The vision is to make Victoria a “memorable, vital and attractive place.” This, it is hoped, will create “a sense of intellectual vibrancy and community that helps attract and retain the best students and staff.” Ooooh.

Deferred maintenance and the loss of activity to other campuses are cited as reasons in the CDF for the Kelburn campus’s tardy appearance. Neglect, and the prioritised development of the Pipitea and Te Aro campuses, has left Kelburn looking, in comparison, like the awkward-looking older cousin from the country.

The CDF highlights several projects for further development, design and action. More student accommodation, a new teaching and research facility and the Campus Hub project are at the top of the priorities list.

Under construction is the somewhat controversial student accommodation complex on Fairlie Terrace, to be completed in time – and on budget – for the 2009 academic year, says Acting Facilities Manager, Rainsforth Dix.

All that heavy machinery and construction activity on the muddier-than-ever Boyd Wilson Field is in the name of fulfilling the strong demand for student accommodation. As Victoria’s existing student accommodation is all off-campus, this new Hall of Residence in such close proximity to the Kelburn campus, it is intended in the CDF, will contribute to “the vitality and quality of experience on the Campus.”

A keen observer may have realised that some buildings, or something unmemorable, seem to have disappeared from the space between Cotton and Laby. The destruction signals the beginnings of the Teaching and Research Building project.

A growth in student numbers and an increased focus on research has necessitated the construction of a flash new building. The CDF states this “flagship” teaching and research facility, focusing on the sciences, will provide “a substantial proportion of the accommodation required for growth.”

A lack of passionate public controversy, and thus publicity, about the building has kept the project on the down-low. Following public consultation, modifications were made to the original plans, including reducing the height of the north stairwell, so as not to impair the views of the residents opposite the building.

The project has met with few problems thus far. Dix has said that construction is set to begin at the end of May, with the projected completion date being late 2009 or early 2010.

The most significant project outlined in the CDF is the so-called Campus Hub. Still in the early design stages, the Campus Hub will serve as a sort of student Mecca, “integrating library, information access and social learning functions,” says the CDF. Based around the current Quad, this new “central gathering space” has scope to include food and beverage outlets, retail and student services.

The Campus Hub would dramatically alter the current configuration of the Quad and Library areas. A more direct link between the Library and the main entrance on Kelburn Parade would be provided by the Hub development and the Quad would become part of an enclosed space. Salient last year reported that one option on the table is to excavate the Quad, in order to even out the variation in levels between the top of the Student Union building and the Library.

Given the Quad’s current lack of personality, charm or good looks, surely its extreme makeover is well overdue. However, before any diggers commence ripping up the grey paving stones or construction workers start eating pies outside the Library, extensive consultation will be required. The project is being undertaken in partnership with the VUWSA Trust, whose feedback, consultation and funding is needed for the Campus Hub to get off the ground.

Dix anticipates that consultation on the Campus Hub will begin between June and August this year, with extensive design plans and models currently in the works. Dix has described the process as a “waiting game,” full of “ifs, buts and maybes.” When work may start on the Campus Hub, not to mention the problems that could be encountered in the process, cannot be anticipated. Involvement of VUWSA and students in the consultation process is crucial to the project. Student feedback is a key focus and opinions will be sought through various channels, including the MyVictoria student portal and Salient. Dix urges students to be involved in the consultation and feedback process, as ultimately it is students who will benefit from this new learning and social environment.

So if all goes to plan, and there’s enough money in the kitty and everyone agrees, in a few years the Kelburn campus could be transformed. No longer will it be the awkward-looking older cousin to be avoided at family reunions.

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Editor for 2010, politics nerd, panda fan and three-time award-winning student journalist.

Comments (1)

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  1. knobgobbler says:

    Take out the top 4 floors of the library, put in apartments, rake in massive amounts of cash (you’ve all looked dopily out at the view instead of studying), build new library and carpark complex on Kelburn parade next to Von Zedlitz. Make the bottom four floors of the remaining library a VUWSA/University owned retail and hospo centre (keep those dick heads from the Union out of the equatio, they fuck shit up bad.)

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