GRAY concrete cliffs rise on a ridge above the Ontario woods 20 miles from downtown Toronto. This is Scarborough College, a new branch of the University of Toronto and John Andrews' only standing building. Another will rise behind Mem Hall in the next few years: Gund Hall, the new Graduate School of Design.
"Scarborough is John Andrews," said one student at the Ontario College last week. "Of course it's him, it is young, bold, and dynamic," agreed a designer who was closely connected with the design of the novel structure.
The principal of Scarborough, Arthur J. W. Plumtree, said, "He made what probably would have been a glorified high school, into one of the most exciting colleges in the country."
Andrews' approach to architecture is the cause of the excitement. "Movement and communication between people are the critical factors in our office," said the tall, stocky, blond-haired Australian in his Toronto office early this week. With Scarborough and Gund Hall in mind, Andrews, who is also the new chairman of the University of Toronto Architecture Department, reflected, "Education has to be about communication."
Leaning back in his chair, jacket off, cigarette hanging from his mouth, and sleeves rolled up, Andrews continued, "Sert (Jose Luis Sert, Dean of the Design School) has a great influence on me. I came to Harvard from Sydney with the attitude of architecture-as-art. Sert didn't give me any formula for design, but I left him with the attitude that humans are the thing." Andrews received his masters from the Design School in 1958, when he moved his base of operations to Toronto.
He describes his style as rationalistic. "I abhor the artistic, intuitive approach," he says. What do the two different approaches mean to the non-architect?
Yamasaki's William James Hall is one of the best examples of the artistic, intuitive approach. The exterior is an artistic study in perspective, but it is competely out of proportion with the rest of the Harvard campus. Thus it is isolated from its environment.
The innards are more disastrous. The basic means of movement in a vertical building like William James is the elevator. There are only three elevators creating massive bottle-necks and delays. The number of elevators and other critical factors in movement and livability seemed to be determined on intuition rather than any scientific, rational basis.
Sert's Holyoke Center and Andrews' Scarborough are rationalistic buildings. The process of design of each individual architect determines the form of the building, most students of architecture will tell you. Andrews' process is clear in the designing of the Ontario college.
Time and location were the biggest problems with Scarborough. The University of Toronto wanted the building finished by September, 1966. Andrews was commissioned in July, 1964. He was forced to design the building while it was under construction. He couldn't have used steel even if he had wanted to because "I didn't know exactly what was going on top even while we were pouring the concrete for the foundation. Steel requires precise knoweldge of stresses which we obviously didn't have," said the young designer.
The University wanted a commuter campus in the middle of the 200 acre rustic reservation which had been appropriated for the college site, so students and faculty would be isolated during the day from the normal cluster of restaurants, stores, and hang-outs which surround most colleges. The college had to be self contained.
The time factor worked in Andrews' favor. The University, afraid of slowing design and thus construction, allowed him a relatively free hand in the design.
Time consciousness also forced the University to break the traditional "lump sum tender" convention in which the architect first does all the designing and makes the final blueprints upon which construction contractors later make kids. The lowest bidder is then usually chosen. Instead, University officials commissioned the architect and the contractor simultaneously.
Red Tape Cutting
It worked well. "The contractor and the architect should work together. You save time and money and have a better building," said Andrews. Changes which the contractor finds are necessary can then be made "without all the red tape that is usually involved." Andrews hopes Harvard will allow the same architect-contractor relationship, though he thinks the University will choose the more conventional course.
Andrews works closely not only with the contractor, but with educators (the 36-year-old Dean of Scarborough worked very closely with Andrews), sociologists, economists, and other specialists. System programming, according to Andrews, is the critical factor in reaching his goals of movement and communication. A typical application is to the circulation plan of people. With system programming, he says, the designer reaches, a rational decision on the number of elevators or the width of corridors for a building.
"The role of the architect," Andrews says, "is to synthesize all recommendations and studies of the specialists." After digesting all, Andrews designs and whatever happens with the outside "happens" according to Andrews.
Scarborough happens rather well both inside and out. His process of in-depth study, synthesis, and design combined with his office's use of "more bloody system programming and computer time" than any other firm in architecture-conscious Toronto.
One former Harvard visual studies student wrote Andrews after seeing the college: "I was incredibly turned-on by your building. . . . What was really great about the buildings from the outside was that the whole time it felt like you were standing next to a real solid building . . . the shapes, angles, views, and turns never seems to dissolve into the gimmicky, tricky, inconsiderate, and condescending thing that seems to be the special danger of original or thought-out architecture."
She continued, "It was as if you had worked out the boldest simplest organizing of buildings in a rough clay model and then just made it big--losing none of the original strength and emphasis."
Some students complain of the lack of color and cozy spots. They feel that Andrews' attempt to provide common spaces to meet new people has worked very well, but there just isn't any place in the building where one could be alone with a few close friends.
Critics at Harvard thought Andrews to be turned-off to new trends in education and architecture. When they see Gund Hall they will probably be in for a surprise.