I was aggravated this morning (like a self-righteous foreigner?) when I saw Professor E.....-... again stagger drunkenly in to the college, to be received neutrally by our uniformed Security Guard. How can our college tolerate this, I wondered, when at the same time, the administration will dock good teachers' pay for arriving later than 9am - besides their working three or four hours' unpaid overtime in scheduled lessons after 6pm? What example does this Professor set for the students and other teachers? My colleagues requested that I turn a blind eye, because they say there is a shortage of good staff.
A presentation by Diploma students yesterday was followed by an (uncomfortable) discussion with architecture staff. The students had all done a lot of work, each presenting several boards of drawings at AO or larger. These are customarily done on white paper, wet stretched onto wooden frames.
1. Uranbileg had drawn a straightforward College building of about seven storeys in a symmetrical Y-form plan. Drawings, at scales from 1:1000 to 1:50, were competent, although no site analysis was evident. She promised to change the drawings for accessibility by ramp and for WCs on the ground floor only. The meaning of the blue glass, in anotherwise practical and well made 1:100 model, was a mystery, and the central circulation / stairwell showed promise despite an apparent lack of daylight.
2. Gursed (m) had also produced a thorough technical report for his College proposal. The facade and perspectives were engaging. The proposed landscaping intriguing.
3. Lhagva (m) had drawn a twelve storey dormitory, but seemed unsure of its exact size and capacity. Our teachers' quick estimate showed a 3,400m2 building with only 2,600m2 useable / lettable area. Besides, at USD$750/m2 the aggregated sale value of about 1.97 million would not even cover the construction cost, of about 2 million.
4. Gantulga (m) had a project for a 300 seat restaurant near the Wrestling Palace in the 10th district. On request, there was a workable commercial kitchen plan in the report. He had omitted to draw an important transverse section. When I offered to help adapt the drawings with a wheelchair accessible entrance and restaurant toilets, he vaguely suggested "Маргааш" (tomorrow) so instead I hurriedly pencilled improvements onto the plans.
5. Enkhbat's (m) Secondary School showed a reasonable courtyard, but no site plan, model or details. I asked the teachers about Mongolian standards of accessibility and energy efficiency for public buildings.
6. Khanburged also had designed a two storey school building. I asked if he had seen the Mongolian Government Construction Ministry's pattern school, which I had recommended he study last December. He claimed the Ministry had refused to allow him to see it. The proposed building was a rectilinear concrete framed building similar to examples shown in Neufert's 1965 Russian edition.
7. Otgonbaatar proposed three Cinemas, the central one of 400 seats flanked on each side by 200 seat cinemas. The centre of the ensemble was surmounted by a replica of Sydney Opera house. The clerestoreys would provide light into the auditorium until the movie started. Given that only one of many former Cinemas remains operational in Ulaanbaatar (and that Otgonbaatar had been unable to interview the Manager with whose contact I had provided him in December) I questioned the teachers on the business case for such a complex. Would a 'town hall', 'concert hall' or 'Opera House' perhaps better suit the main auditorium? How ironic that the Sydney Opera House replica might be subverted to its proper use...
8. Enkhtsetseg's dormitory building, on which I had assisted her often remained incomplete. I suggested a modelling workshop, along with Gursed, for the following day. She returned empty handed the next day, having left the 1:100 model at home. I showed examples from Curtin architecture students own guide book, and suggested we try a 1:500 mass model right now. "Маргааш" (tomorrow) she said.
When Professor Dagshigdorj enquired about my reflections, I was diplomatic.
Firstly, could not the architecture teachers, I suggested, with the support of the Mongolian Institute of Architects, please consult with the Construction Ministry about the accessibility and energy standards of the new Mongolian Pattern Schools? This was now being outsourced to GTZ, because of the lacking professional capacity of Mongolian architects. Professor Dagshigdorj dismissed this as 'corruption'. Meanwhile the 1965 Russian translation of Neufert seems to be the standard.
Secondly, could students be encouraged to consider the environmental and even financial feasibility context of their projects? There was no simple answer. But for now, it seemed that the calculation of concrete reinforcement was a higher priority. The graduation ceremony this Friday is being postponed.