Hours to Sunset — The Courtyard
The design of the courtyard, developed in collaboration with Helen Whitbread and Susan Marie, is largely a response to the fairly spare and angular sandstone forms of the site, so my primary idea was to introduce elements that break the tension of those lines with simple, curved, organic forms, while also to working with the space sympathetically so that they might seem quite naturally nestled or growing within a purposeful alcove.
Of course, the design also needed to relate to the large sun dial above. Where that vertical image carries a sense of air, light and celestial objects, something on the horizontal ground needed to be about the earth, solid mass and gravity. The two planes share similar parabolic curves and circular lines, relating to the outline and trajectory of the sun; they are also connected by gold and ‘earth’ colours using the same mosaic tiles of the sundial laid over large river-stone-like forms (and giving visitors the opportunity to see and touch them up close).
Another relationship has do do with an avian concept, with a large gold egg off to one side as if it might have been deposited by the winged entity of the sundial. To me, the egg also has some suggestion of wisdom, which relates to the university setting: a thing of abstract but enduring value, a wealth that’s at once real and imaginary, and also quite mysterious.
The extrusion of three-dimensional forms out of a two-dimensional image, as if having fallen out, is interesting and playful, particularly if you can walk around and sit on them, and I do hope that it’s a space that invites active casual use, and also acts as a campus landmark.
The presence of growing plants also reminds us that time is a omnipresent element, it’s not entirely static, and that all parts of the space are ‘fed’ by a traversing sun.
Shaun Tan, 2013