15 November, 2007

What type of community will the NCV have?

Our aim in building the New College Village is to create a unique community for postgraduate students enrolled at UNSW. Many universities around the world attempt to provide designated postgraduate accommodation (although very few in Australia). However, not many universities have seriously given time to community building. I lived in a postgraduate residence consisting of 200 two and three bedroom apartments whilst a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University (Bloomington) in the early 1980s. Tulip Tree Apartments (picture opposite) was designed for postgraduates and their families. While it was a nice building, it had no common rooms, no shared facilities and virtually no support programs. The estimated 37 nations represented in the building had to find ways to make friends and support each another. At that time (over 20 years ago) the building offered little more than a mail service and its design did little to foster community building. Other than some long corridors, the elevator and a limited playground, there were few places where residents could meet one another. While I enjoyed my time in Bloomington it was because of the connections we made with other people through the faculty, community, school and the local Methodist church that our lives were enriched. Tulip Tree was just a place to live.

The New College Village has been designed to facilitate community building. We have attempted to recognize that single postgraduate students will want more privacy than undergraduates, but at the same time we have attempted to design the building to allow residents to mill and mix in many shared spaces. We do not want our residents to spend all of their time alone in their rooms. There are four key planks in our strategy to build a vibrant community:

1. We have designed the building to facilitate contact with other people - we will have 14 common rooms, two external courtyards, a rooftop terrace, a games room, business centre, large common room, reading room, private courtyard and convenience store.

2. We will have staff support - every floor will have a residential adviser who has the task of knowing residents, offering pastoral care and academic support and facilitating social interaction.
3. The residents themselves will be encouraged to build an active social programme supported by staff through a residents committee.

4. Alumni and friends of New College will act as mentors and supporters of residents through a fellows programme.

I will provide more details on some of these approaches in future posts.

05 November, 2007

A week of good progress

The last week has seen good progress on site in spite of some rain that would have stopped many construction projects. The first footings were poured on Saturday in the rain, and the bricklayers began to build the basement walls today. Stage 1 of the piers was completed today and the basement of the building will soon become more identifiable. The Lipman team is very keen to see the basement floor in place so that the site is clean, the mountain of sand (the 'big top') can be back-filled and stage 2 of the piers completed. The picture opposite shows the foundations beginning to emerge from the sand. Note New College in the background with the the green 4th Floor that was added in 2003-2004.

The sand has been both a curse and a blessing. Workers on site are developing their leg muscles as the move around and there is the constant problem of blowing sand that has been covered. But the good news is that even torrential rain quickly disappears on site, this was the main reason that concrete could be poured on Saturday and the site remains accessible.