Steedman Competition 2012 | Oblique Interactions
Walking the quadrangle paths of Washington University in St. Louis is an experience both formal and haphazard. In plan, the courtyard behind Brookings Hall, seems completely formal, a double x providing adequate circulation, and more importantly an orderly image at the University’s front door. Yet, in experience, this is a place of complete informality. A place where my path will intersect another, and I will encounter a another person. Usually this means only a nod, a subtle adjustment in speed, and we both continue on our way. Why is this? We are both now on the same path, we have at least that much in common. It is uncertainty that keeps us apart, the thought that our only common ground is literally this ground. But move this experience to a building, a building filled with many disciplines and functions, and the common ground grows along with the frequency of these oblique intersections.
The new Sam Fox building is a place of both crossing disciplines and crossing paths. Rising from a series of angled paths, its first floor is not the edge of the landscape, but a continuation of it. On the south side of a building this landscape is the ‘courtyard of the everyday’- a place where the Sam Fox School lives in public. Moving north, and into the building, public program including a to-go cafe, community tables, and fabrication shop expose the process of art, architecture and design to all who enter. Drawn upward by a full height atrium, the visitor is pointed at places they may want to explore, and tempted by oblique walls to peek around the corner. The stairs are punctuated by Sam Fox Hall, grand dining space, worth coming down the hill for. It’s best view of Brookings on campus.
This is important because this new building is the foil of Brookings Hall. A formal flip of massing removes the high and lofty image of academia and allows for an inviting public building full of interaction.
1) architecture is about experience
2) architecture does not require Architects
3) building photos are not architecture photos
4) external critique is always better than internal