Architype Dialogue presents
What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?
Without doubt the most difficult issue working within this building type is that of executing a design that contends with and resolves the matter of building within an operating rail corridor. This project provided the unique challenges of designing and constructing a new rail line and station eight metres lower than the adjacent operating tracks and six lane arterial road all within an extremely narrow rail reserve. In addition to the substantial civil challenges, the project also required complex staging to enable rail line operation and road use to be, for the most, part undisrupted. New thinking introduced off site prebuilt station facilities buildings to be utilized in order to enable parallel works to be completed and to allow for critical path activities to be undertaken without the disruption usually associated with in-situ construction techniques. This enabled the AUD$130M grade separation project to be completed from concept to commissioning in six months with minimal disruption.
Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?
Essentially the project elevated the role of the architect beyond that of the designer of the built environment. The delivery framework of an “alliance” provided us with an equal voice in the resolution of a complex rail project. Involvement by the architect at the highest levels of decision making shifted the dynamic of an essentially construction engineering led solution from a pragmatic precedent response to one that embraced new thinking. To this end the solutions that made the project an outstanding success were provided by the architect in challenging the preconceived engineering and construction methodologies. The role of architect was that of innovator and ideas author.
How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?
The technical requirements of constructing a major work of civil infrastructure within not one but two live operating vehicle corridors with the additional constraint of a compressed delivery programme required design and execution solutions that increased site productivity and reduced disruption time to the two corridors. Several significant innovations were developed and adopted during the life of the project that contributed to its overall success from an aesthetic and construction duration perspective. The success of the project facilities and the method of delivery provided a community legacy that incorporated and addressed elements such as safety, security, accessibility and well being.
The architectural design solution of utilizing off-site modular construction for the primary concourse buildings benefited the project by allowing the constrained works site area to achieve maximum productivity and safety for workers. It allowed for factory level finish tolerances to be achieved and allowed for a benchmark quality finish to be incorporated. The factory construction techniques allowed for a minimization of construction waste.
Effective communication of dynamically evolving virtual design models between the designers and the fabricators enhanced the construction of major project elements and contributed to the projects capacity to meet the constraints of the delivery programme and the requirement to minimize impacts on rail customers and road users.
In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?
The project demonstrated that current trends are providing graduates with a better understanding of designing in a virtual space and a better grasp of the software packages and translational aspects of design tools. Importantly this knowledge is contributing to the capacity for architects to engage with the delivery and construction sides of the profession to better streamline project delivery. This ultimately is contributing to greater levels of workplace efficiency and a reduction of site waste.
Whilst relatively removed from the development of academic curricula it would seem that technological developments in fabrication and construction techniques combined with ever expanding computational possibilities are developing the possibilities for embracing the dreams of new designers and encouraging effective teaching and learning.
Architype Review thanks Peter Stevens for his interview and for contributing to this collection of Architype Dialogue.