Faculty of Science Building: University of Auckland


The disappearance of the landmark science department tower at the southern threshold of the University of Auckland campus raises, again, the ongoing discussion on the short lifespan of contemporary building. Bobby Shen brings up our latest loss in issue 2 of architecturenz, lamenting the fall from favour of Brutalism and the subsequent replacement plan for the 1960’s concrete tower.

While Bobby comments, in particular, on the disappointing loss of the bronze cladding, there is little to be done now as (as we would usually be hoping all too much) the project has moved on. The topic for scrutiny now then is the new direction the University are taking – masterminded in this stage by Architectus.

While Stephenson and Turner describe their preceding alteration as sympathetic to the Brutalist approach, this may not be an entirely agreeable description. Referencing and derived from the old design it certainly is, but sympathy between such contrasting material palettes is not such an easy sell.

With the introduction of a third and fourth language (or to be more gentle, dialects) in this current stage there stands the risk of generating an incoherent collection of parts. While this approach is necessary and (arguably?) beneficial at an urban scale, is this the best option for that of a single complex with the need to function as a cohesive department? Only the completed project will say whether this multi-stylistic outcome performs well for the tenants, and in image as much as function.

Alistair Munro