New College Village Emerges From The Scaffolding

Monday 8 December, 2008
by New College Admin
NCV building development project nearing completion, opens January 5th

As you’ve read in previous issues of New ’n’ Old we are building a new ‘New’. The New College Village is to be a postgraduate self-catered community adjacent to New College. The building is on track for completion before Christmas this year.

Our first resident will arrive on January 5th 2009! Applications have been strong with over 150 received to date and over 50 residents admitted so far. The building has lots of significant features that will make it a comfortable building to live in, with a design that provides varied spaces for communal activities. While the building will be air-conditioned it also incorporates many features to reduce energy use. For example, the building has additional ventilation and strong thermal qualities that will reduce heat in summer and retain heat in winter. It incorporates cleverly designed awnings to screen summer sun and acoustic barriers to screen external noise. The building also captures all storm water for re-use on site. One of the most striking features of the building will be its large acoustic glass screen designed to reduce traffic noise from Anzac Parade.

The main concern for us, however, has been ensuring that the building facilitates the development of a unique, vibrant community for postgraduate students at UNSW.

NCV: Creating a new Postgraduate Community

Many universities around the world attempt to provide designated postgraduate accommodation (although very few in Australia). However, not many universities have seriously given time to community building. I lived in a postgraduate residence consisting of 200 two and three bedroom apartments whilst a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University (Bloomington) in the early 1980s.

The apartments were designed for postgraduates and their families. While it was a nice building, it had no common rooms, no shared facilities and virtually no support programs.

The estimated 37 nations represented in the building had to find ways to make friends and support each another. At that time (over 20 years ago) the building offered little more than a mail service and its design did little to foster community building. Other than some long corridors, the elevator and a limited playground, there were few places where residents could meet one another. While I enjoyed my time in Bloomington it was because of the connections we made with other people through the faculty, community, school and the local Methodist church that our lives were enriched. The building was just a place to live.

The New College Village has been designed to facilitate community building. We have recognized that single postgraduate students will want more privacy than undergraduates, but at the same time we have attempted to design the building to allow residents to mill and mix in many shared spaces; we do not want our residents to spend all of their time alone in their rooms. There are four key planks in our strategy to build a vibrant community:

1. We have designed the building to facilitate contact with other people – we will have 14 common rooms, two external courtyards, a rooftop terrace, a games room, business centre, large common room, reading room, private courtyard and convenience store.

2. We will have staff support – every floor will have a Senior Resident who has the task of knowing residents, offering pastoral care and academic support and facilitating social interaction.

3. The residents themselves will be encouraged to build an active social programme supported by staff through a residents committee.

4. Alumni, friends of New College and University staff will also act as mentors and supporters of residents through a fellows programme.

My wife Carmen and I will be moving into the building in January to help establish a strong and supportive community. We have no doubt that the NCV, while different to the old ‘New College’, will nevertheless have a strong, vibrant and supportive community.

Trevor Cairney

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