Cultural projects include Institutional Buildings, Civic Buildings and Educational Buildings. This includes Museums, Galleries, Libraries, Universities and Schools, and also Government Administrative and Service Buildings. Cultural buildings are essentially vessels by which artefacts or processes of culture are encapsulated and articulated to transmit their meaning or significance from one person or group of people to another. This process of information exchange can either be a process of enrichment and empowerment or one of restriction and control. Neither of these outcomes are negative depending on the target outcome of the exchange.
The Client Brief is intrinsically related to the design process and outcome for Cultural Buildings. It is very important to properly articulate the Project Brief in a way that the whole of the Client Process is engaged with the building and understood by the Designers. MWA can assist with the creation of the Brief and will work with the Client through the life of the Project to ensure it is properly integrated with the Design. MWA believe in a process of ‘lightness’ and ‘monumentality’ for Cultural buildings; a Cultural Building must have a sense of lightness to it, at the same time as being a stable and grounded part of the Cultural landscape.
Lightness is important so that the Building is approachable, amenable and interactive. MWA appreciates that this shift in comprehension of architectural form reflects the contemporary shift in our understanding of the purpose of information; that is, rather than being a fixed resource to be protected and preserved, information is rather a dynamic and interactive project that we are all involved with, that changes the content, meaning and scope of information over time, and that this is a positive process for culture and society. This Lightness therefore balances the permanence of our cultural artefacts, whether they are ideas or things.
The Opera House in Sydney is an excellent example; conceived as a series of clouds floating over terrain, the building design concept itself encapsulates this duality of lightness and monumentality. At the same time, this duality is evident between the building fabric and its operational programme; the permanence of the precast concrete shells, and solid base, contrasts to the constant and ongoing series of events and activities that occur within it. The building is an open and permeable platform for interaction between people around various humanist ideas and concepts. Facilitating this exchange and allowing for changes in the way this exchange occurs over time, is a key requirement of a cultural building and reflects the change in curatorial and educational approach from one of preserving and protecting to one of opening up, making available, interacting and changing.