Context Concept Programme And Experience Cultural Studies Essay

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The shift towards the trend of modern and contemporary style in architecture have resulted a deviation from the traditional restricted methodological process of designs. This has allowed designers to extrapolate out of the ordinary square and gain inspiration and incorporate ideas from the unexpected. This has led to an outburst of various new architectural theories. This design project involved designing a public library at a given location, and is comprised of four components which I believe are integral parts of architecture: context, concept, programme and experience. The context describes the circumstances that surround the design project of the library. Concept is the use of ideas and discipline that is outside architecture. Programme describes the function of the building and finally, experience is what is perceived by the person.

The Context

The site for this studio is at the crossroads of Symonds Street, Mt Eden Road and New North Road, which is close to Newton Road and Khyber Pass. Before designing any buildings of any function, it is vital to take into account the history and the current status of the surrounding. This area is one of the most significant junctions of travel routes in the city, and was once an intense area of commercial activity. However, this area has undergone many transformations throughout time; some of the neighbouring buildings had been demolished and morphed into other uses (i.e. the Post office is currently used as a restaurant.) Therefore, the library had to be designed in a way that reinvigorates the site surrounding- by firstly becoming a landmark that attract the people and secondly, giving the building meaningful to the visitors. The three neighbouring building of the site are the reservoir (behind), restaurant (left) and a bar (right).


Architecture of the past was heavily focused on the aesthetics and the architects were guided solely by theories of "craft and construction" ( However, architecture today involves "introduction of ideas and concepts from outside of architecture" ( ranging from artwork, text, and to music. This extrapolation creates a sense of freedom by introducing the idea of individualism. Peter Eisenman defines of conceptual architecture as an "aspect of the visible form, whether it is an idea, in a drawing or in a building, which is intentionally put in the form to provide access to the inner form or universal formal relationships" (Architecture theory since 1968 pg 523) Unlike theories, concepts "do not demand absoluteness, intellectual conclusion and consistency in application" (Conceptual Architecture, pg 8) which again adds to the sense of freedom and originality. This freedom and originality are what I believe keeps the world of architecture to constantly move forward.

Le Corbusier, one of the pioneers of modern architecture, highlighted the importance of having concepts in design process. Le Corbusier strived to achieve better living environment that is less crowding and more hygienic via housing concepts, which incorporated a variety ideas including crab shells, aircraft wings and hydraulic dams to solve structural problem of the roof. He used the "strategy of focussing on the big issues and leaving detailed considerations until later in the process." The Chapel of Ronchamp as an Example of Le Corbusier's Creative Process, by Daniele Pauly (from H. Allen Brooks (ed), Le Corbusier, Princeton University Press, 1987) pg 8

One of the landmarks that attract most attention while standing on the crossroad is Mount Eden, which is among few of the most visually prominent volcanoes in Auckland. The library was based on the inspiration that originated from Mt Eden and its geological volcanic structure. The skin and the layers of soils, rocks and lava were metaphorically translated in the architectural language of layering: the skin was interpreted as the layer skin of the building and the layers of soil and lava were seen as the layering of interior space. In addition to this, the floor levels were slightly corrugated so that it illustrates the abstract form of variation of the level of the soil that is piled beneath surface. The partitioned wall system was the solution in creating the visual interior layering and the irregularity of its positioning re-emphasised the asymmetric volcanic layers. Unlike the volcano where the layers are stacked up vertically, the library involved layering on a horizon so that although not visible from the outside, visitors could personally experience the layering of the space while they circulate around the building.

The conceptual approach to the architectural design involved using ideas from discipline other than architecture including inspiration from art. The way in which these layers were revealed or presented to the public was influenced by the work of a New Zealand artist, Rohan Weallean. Weallean is well known for endlessly layering paint of various colours on sculptures and using a craft-knife to reveal the colourful stratified interior. Glass was used to form the walls of the library so that the interior can be seen from the outside. The transparency of the walls seems as if the outer walls have been peeled off as in Weallean's works, in order to reveal the interesting view of layering of the walls to the passersby.

Painting by Theo van Doesburg (1918) and plan for the Barcelona Pavilion, by Mies van der Rohe (1927):

Painting by Kasimir Malevich (1915):

Designs by Zaha Hadid for the Media Park, Dusseldorf (c.1990):

PROGRAM- The Library

Buildings are only activated once it has a program, i.e. a function. Depending on what the function is, the spatial arrangement will differ due to practicality and efficiency. Rob Bruijnzeels discusses the design criteria for a library- that it is a space for books, and also a space for readers. He defines library as a 'tool for personal change'.(Tomorrow's library, Volume, pg 15)

The classic image that comes in mind from the word library is of students quietly reading books or studying for the exams. The library will lose its function if students are not able to read and study in peaceful silence. However, majority of the libraries also have areas that allow lively conversations, such as the café, group discussion rooms and children playrooms. It is important for the library to contain both areas, and effectively separate it so that both functions are not lost.

The Mount Eden Library consists of three floors: Ground floor, first floor and basement, which can also be described in terms of layers. The ground floor has the main entrance from the street. As soon as the visitor enters the building he or she will be in a large area of void space for people to communicate and socialise. Further on the left is the main area where bookshelves are located and this area is for silent reading and study. Opposite here is the area for the library staffs. The staircases are the main route of vertical circulation around the building, and there also is an elevator available only for those with disabled mobility. Immediately above the silent area on the top floor is another area for books and silent study. Behind the internal wall that separates the silent and conversing areas are the café, group study area and also another void space, again available for socialising. Further in to the right is the quiet reading room where you could relax and enjoy the view of Mount Eden that lies on the south.

Order and Spatial Organisation

In general, majority of modern style architecture has great emphasis on the symmetry and the regularity as it traditionally means "purity and harmony" (Frampton)

This library is in non-orthogonal grids due to its complex arrangement of the interior walls. As the internal walls have visual complexity, all other plan had to be simplified for more efficient circulation around the main book space. One of the biggest difficulties was the placing of the columns as various considerations were required; including the convenience of the visitors' circulation around the building and also the visual appearance. I placed the columns at each of the corners of the walls in order to fulfil both requirements.

'Willis building', which was originally called the 'Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters' was designed by the English architect by Norman Foster. I was truly inspired by his successful approach in spatial organisation and his use of open space. (Evaluation: a building that succeeds in losing itself, pg 63) As time passes, the newly opened library will go through various changes such as needing to place extra bookshelves due to the introduction of more books and also alterations in the study desk numbers and arrangements depending on the number of students that visit the library to study. Whether it is "expanding or shrinking" (Library design guides pg 20) spaces, the presence of open space makes it easier to make transformations. The Mount Eden Library incorporates open space for reading and also void space for socialising so that the library flexible and can quickly respond to "future changes" (Library design guides pg 20)


Aristotle describes five senses of our body as sight, touch, hear, smell and taste. ( Applying this to an architectural sense, a person is able to see the shape and colours, touch the textures of the carpet, hear the echo across the corridor and smell that last coating of paint on the walls. Good food in a relaxing environment will also add as a plussage to the impression of the place. All senses are able to trigger not only an emotional response but also bring up memories. Out of the five senses, which are all considered important, the main focus in architecture is usually the "sight" as aesthetics is portrayed easier through visual experience via tools such as photography.

Different spatial designs and arrangements allow people gain differing experiences. It may trigger emotional response of relaxation and comfort, or even the opposite. For centuries, countless numbers of buildings have aimed to "attain the state happiness" (building happiness pg6) and today; many buildings strive to appeal to the public as a source of escape from the busy and complex city life.

The theories Louis Kahn, the great American architect, based his work had greatest influence on this library. Kahn was described as a "philosopher among architects" ( who believed that "architecture is the thoughtful making of spaces". ( Kahn ingeniously combined and weaved the usual "science of architecture, and our knowledge of the functional requirements of the spaces and the construction" (Building happiness pg29) with the "ideals, dreams, aspirations, feelings, imaginations, and intuition" (Building happiness pg29) in order to create space that provides what people truly need in order to make them happy. This required deep knowledge in the area of not only architecture but also philosophy and psychology. Through his work, he strived to stimulate all senses of the human body by taking account of the "impact of light and shade, form and material, texture and tactility, lightness and weight" (Building happiness pg29) and also the "impact of sound and acoustics" (Building happiness pg29) and how these work together to influence someone who moves within the building.

Lighting is one of the essential elements that can control how one views and see within the library. Illumination is described as the "symbol of cleanliness, purity, knowledge and heaven". (Concepts and Practice of Architectural Daylighting, pg3) Kahn stresses the importance of daylighting and emphasised that "natural light is the only light that makes architecture" as it is something everyone shares in common. (Kimbel Museum pg237) The glass curtain wall that wraps the facade towards the street front allows light to come through into the library building. Use of low emissivity glass prevented excessive radiation and emission of radiant energy, avoiding overheating. The irregular heights of the ceiling was not only to reemphasise the concept of 'layering' but also to take advantage of clerestories as softer light is created in comparison to skylight as it allows light to bounce off more surfaces. This allows one to experience a much more relaxed and friendly environment.

Internal walls were used in order to create distinct contrast between the public social space such as the cafe, and quiet working space such as the study room. 'Grande Bibliotheque du Quebec', a library in Canada designed by Patkau Architects, uses large slatted "yellow birch cladding" (website) to separate the two main reading rooms which required different atmospheres. I was greatly inspired by how they created the sense of change in atmosphere without actually fully dividing up the space and excluding each other with concrete walls. Thus, this idea was applied to my library by having each of the long partitions to be made in slatted volumes and in square patterns. Furthermore, The slatted and square patterned holes creates an illusion of extra spaciousness in a small area, the same way a window is used to visually extend your view, and feel as if you are in a wider space. The use of natural materials such as wood adds friendliness to the library.

The control of thermal conductivity was not only through the use of low emissivity glass but also through the use of double skin façade. This is the use of two layers of glass instead of one in order to improve the thermal comfort experienced by visitors. This is due to the increase in energy efficiency by doubling the effect of the low emissivity glass, improvement in insulation and also the improved noise control via acoustic isolation from the outdoors.


In a nutshell, the four components: context, concept, programme and experience, are vital areas that must be taken into account for all architectural design. These components work together to balance out architectural theories, aesthetics, originality, practicality, efficiency, and flexibility to change. Great deal of effort was made in order to incorporate all these components into the Mount Eden Library; to design a library that reinvigorates the area using the library resources along with its somewhat unusual but appealing design, extrapolate out of the ordinary and incorporate concepts such as the volcanic layers to create originality, maximise function while retaining the aesthetics and create a relaxing environment that provides visitors with positive experience which will bring them back in the future.