Quite some years ago my second son was a student at the dance academy.
Often people could find me there participating in activities to improve either his school and the academy.
It was a time of money and plans. and because I had some architecture courses at the university I was invited in the building commission, first of the school and soon after of the new to build academy.
I enjoyed working for the school. The architect was an old man, with lots of knowledge and a good insight in what the school needed. We had to use the old building, but we had lots of ground for extensions, an interesting landscape, as it was in a valley, and none had problems with replacing walls with huge glass panels. My courses had provided me with knowledge an insights that fitted in the team, and none had ego's to prevent changes. So the end-result was a merge of all ideas, options and a lot of suggestions.
It didn't only look good, the school was a good place to use for both students, teachers and other personnel.
Planning and building the academy was a complete different experience.
It had to be a new building, with a large part build under ground-level.
It needed to be a building one of its kind, prize-winning and not too expensive.
The former academy had a seperate theater, very nice, with a great atmosphere.
The new building needed a theater incoorporated in the building, accessible at all times without opening the rest of the building.
I worried about ventilation. Dancing is a very intensive sport and good ventilation is crucial for the performance and the health of the dancers. The buildings with multiple layers of cellars I know have no proper ventilation and with a limited budget I worried.
The team of architects had some good ideas, but the costs were too high, so we were spending part of the meetings discussing materials and adjustments, tiptoeing around vulnerable ego's, stubbornness and lack of insight.
In the meantime time passed, the ground was prepared, the bills were piling up, and nothing was approved.
There were some parts I didn't agree with.
On the photo you can see the red bench at a lower level than the walking corridor. There is nothing to prevent people from falling. Not even a colour difference. And there would be no elevator, so the building would not be accessible for people in a wheelchair. Not for theater, not for injured dancers who should be able to view the lessons. And not for people with equipment.
I also thought there should be a good size theater, not a small one, and one with movable rows of chairs that could be fixed flat to the wall. One large theater would mean a seperate entrance at the level of the theater, so no elevator would be needed. Heating in the weekend and evening would only be for that part of the building, so the exploitation would be cheaper.
The whole team started to grow apart. We wanted more colour, they wanted grey, so it would safe costs. The whole feel of enthusiasm changed into a kind of contest. And I don't like ego games.
My participation ended at my own free decision.
When the whole thing was finished I was and wasn't surprised.
At the last moment elevators were fitted in.
Instead of going with one, people who wanted to use it needed to go from one to another,, with very small turning space. The main entrance wasn't accessible for wheelchairs, due to stairs, and the other side was not accessible because of stairs in front of and behind the door!!!!
Ventilation isn't always good enough. Some rooms, even at the top levels, can't host more than a certain amount of students.
People have tripped and fallen from the main corridor.
And the theaters don't work well enough (but the ventilation there is rather OK.). And the whole school needs to be opened up to host the visitors.
I've learned a lot from being part of such different architecture teams.
To get an insight in the needs of the users and to translate them into a building that gives a happy feeling and enhances creativity is a challenge and it always should be balanced by a healthy attitude towards the funds available.