On June 30, 2016, Building 2 will close ahead of its redevelopment as part of the UTS Central project. For Frank Urbina and Brian Moore, both part of the Program Management Office team overseeing the project, the reinvention of the building will be a milestone in more ways than one.
I never forget a face, and when I walked into the Program Management Office (PMO) on my first day at UTS in 2012 and saw Brian, I knew he was the same person I’d studied architecture with at this very campus more than 30 years earlier. He didn’t remember me, but I’ve always been good with faces; even if Brian’s hair was shorter, and greyer, than when I had last seen him!
We started our architecture degree at the then NSW Institute of Technology (NSWIT) in 1976. For the first four years of our degree we were based in the old Darlinghurst Gaol building in East Sydney and also had classes in the Anthony Hordern Building, which was later demolished to make way for World Square. In 1980, our school, having outgrown the space in East Sydney, moved into the newly completed Building 2 on Broadway.
In all honesty, my first impression of Building 2 was that it was heaven. This is probably a very different perception of the building to what students have today. But in 1980 the building was brand new and it had so much more studio and classroom space than we had previously. Importantly, having the school based in the one building gave it a greater sense of cohesion.
The NSWIT’s School of Architecture and Building was very highly regarded in the industry, which probably had a lot to do with the influence of the late Professor Neville Quarry. As the head of school he had a philosophy which, put simply, was that the school had ‘no philosophy’. As students, we were given complete freedom in our designs but had a responsibility to defend them. This was an inspiring and progressive way of teaching.
My only memory of Building 2, and the campus more broadly, are the classrooms and studio spaces; that’s because that’s all there was. If you wanted something to eat, McDonald’s on Broadway – which remains there today – was your only option. There were no student spaces, lounges or study areas. Not like today. I recently walked past Penny Lane in Building 11 and saw how full it was with students eating and socialising and I thought, they just don’t know how lucky they are to have all these amazing facilities.
I can only describe working on the re-development of Building 2 as part of the UTS Central project, and alongside my old classmate Brian Moore of all people, as one of life’s many surprises. I was among the first group of students who studied in Building 2 and now I’m part of the project team responsible for reinventing the building. It’s certainly ironic, but comes with a level of satisfaction. It’s great to be able to come full circle and give back to the university.
I may have studied in the building all those years ago but I wouldn’t say I feel any particular connection to it. So, when Building 2 closes at the end of June and we start preparing for its demolition – which, subject to approval, will take place at the end of the year – I don’t think I’ll feel anything more than the next person. Unlike Frank, I actually didn’t like the building very much when I was a student. Though I think this had a lot to do with missing Darlinghurst, which was where the arts school was based and which had a more creative vibe.
Studying architecture at the NSWIT in those days was a completely different world to the UTS of today. For one, it was more vocational and we all worked full-time. It was a difficult six-year course and we were under immense pressure as we were working four days a week, coming in for classes one full day and two nights a week, and on top of that doing our course work. There wasn’t the time – or space – to socialise after class. You came in, went to class, and went home.
UTS today is light years apart in terms of the facilities available to students – they really are spectacular and encourage students to stay on campus, be it to study or hang out with friends. I look at the plans for the new Building 2 and there is just no comparison to the current building. It will house the new UTS Library which will have a scholarly reading room looking out over Alumni Green, and there will be an expansive learning commons and other great learning and research spaces across its 16 levels.
I definitely see it becoming the new heart of the university. As, unlike our other recently completed buildings which were all faculty buildings, this one won’t have a single faculty presence and will instead be a central hub where people will come and meet from all over the university.
There’s a great satisfaction in seeing Building 2 transform from what I think is a fairly poorly-designed building to something that is going to be quite special and better meet the needs of the university. The quality of what we’re building as part of the Campus Master Plan is why I like working within the PMO so much. Our three new buildings and what’s planned for the future are really high-quality pieces of architecture. And, most importantly, user needs are at the forefront.
As Frank said, we’ve really come full circle working on this project. We started here and it’s quite likely we’ll finish our careers here. Talk about going out with a bang!