The urban design theorist and historian Alexander D’Hooghe has argued that Josep Luis Sert’s idea of the core is a key to understanding the “abandoned foundations of the late modern project” in architecture and urbanism. “The Core”, D’Hooghe argues, “is a series of precisely circumscribed figures of publicness in the background of a (dis)urbanizing, privatized territory”. As outlined by Sert in the early 1950s and reconceptualised by D’Hooghe fifty years later, three things define the core: its abstract and monumental formal properties, its limited extent, and its liberal political resonance. Far from being a fully realised alternative to post-war urban expansion, the core was conceptualised as a strategic and intensely civic intervention into a wider urban realm. In these qualities it resonates with the civic mission of the post-WWII (1945-1980) university in Australia. Post-war campuses in Australia were characteristically suburban in setting, but were also treated as test beds for new urban thinking. While courtyard and grid were more explicit organising devices for Australian campuses, this paper suggests that revisiting the idea of the core can help us to understand the underlying civic aspirations and liberal assumptions embedded in Australian tertiary education in the post-war decades. Drawing on archival and published sources produced by a range of leading architects and planners including Denis Winston (Professor of Town Planning at the University of Sydney), Wally Abraham (leader of Macquarie University’s Architect Planner’s Office 1964-1983) and Roy Simpson (leading Melbourne architect and the master planner of the La Trobe University campus), the paper opens up a discussion of the meaning and legacy of the campus as a model of civic form.
The authors 2018
Proceedings of the 14th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference 2018