Call for 'theme' to link buildings

Peter Entwisle
Peter Entwisle
Not adding to the ''mess'' of clashing designs presents a challenge for the University of Otago as it goes ahead with its massive construction programme, Dunedin historian Peter Entwisle says.

Mr Entwisle said the university's ambitious building programme was Dunedin's largest construction boom since the 1960s and 1970s, when Cargill House, Wickliffe House, the Forsyth Barr building, the Dunedin Hospital and a range of others were built.

If the demolition of the six-storey arts building went ahead, it would probably be the most significant building to come down since the 1980s, when the old Otago Daily Times buildings were demolished, he said.

It was crucial the university's new buildings fitted with the rest of the campus and had an overarching theme.

''It's very important, because these buildings become facts for a very long time,'' he said.

In the past, poor design decisions had been made and the university was left with those. An example was the ''robustly ugly'' Sciences 2 building.

''I think the only solution there is dynamite, but they can't afford to do that sort of thing.''

The biggest obstacle the university faced was the ''mess'' of clashing designs it had been left with, including everything from Gothic revival and bluestone to the space-age glass and steel of the dental school building.

If he had one piece of advice to offer the university it would be to ''try to find some overarching unifying theme or motif that will link these buildings''.

''So that when people are there, they think 'Oh yes, I am at the University of Otago'.

''The way things are at present you haven't the slightest idea where the university begins and ends.''