Environments of Knowledge: Climate and Detailing in Educational Institutions


Winners of competitions in 1989, 1990 and 1991, Cranfield, Cambridge and Camus are three educational buildings that share expressive roofs, climate-conscious detailing and a convivial understanding of learning. Gravid with light references and wise in a casual way, the three are magnificent off-hand achievements. Cranfield University Library, with its top-lit parallel vaults and deep entrance canopy, brings to mind Kahn’s Kimbell; but the extruded section, three-storey atrium, independent roof, louvred sides and monumental portico are a summary of Foster’s career; and the open access concept makes the building a social and symbolic hub. The triangulated steel structure that supports the north facade and roof in the Cambridge Law Faculty building remembers Fuller’s geodesics; but the half sunken atrium-lit section is a Foster motif, and the sloping supports and glazed skin cleverly refer to Stirling’s adjacent History Faculty, whose panoptic library is reversed in this conservatory of books. The concrete vaults of the Lycée Albert Camus in Fréjus show the influence of late Corbu; but the central top-lit street and the louvres of the south facade reinterpret the vernacular with technical ingenuity and social acuity, fusing people, climate and site in one single, easy gesture...[+]

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