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Bruce Hall is dead, long live Bruce Hall

By Charlotte Harper - 22 February 2017 10

SA5 entrance. Photo: Charlotte Harper

ANU student residence Bruce Hall’s motto is “Felix Qui Potuit Rerum Cognoscere Causas” or, for the non-Latin scholars among you, “Happy is he who is able to discover the reason for things”.

Many Bruce Hall alumni and residents have struggled to come to terms with the university’s plans to demolish their much loved original building at the top of University Avenue later this year. They have been unable to discover the reason for the move (to their satisfaction), even as Bruce Hall residents settle into sparkling new temporary digs further along Daley Road at SA5, a $53 million student residence on campus that was built in a year so it could be ready to house them until their new permanent premises are ready to be the envy of the world in two years. SA5 will be provided with its own name and identity as a future college thereafter.

SA5 external view. Photo: Charlotte Harper

I loved the fact that the ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt made sure enough of the students were on hand for the opening of SA5 this morning by waking them all with a fire alarm at 7am.

Breakfast BBQ. Photo: Charlotte Harper

Dozens of them did the right thing and came out to share a breakfast burger moment with Professor Schmidt. The VC apologised for the fire alarm tactics during his speech, and noted that he kept bottles of champagne on hand when he was a college student “because that made it all worthwhile when the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night”.

“There was the time there was nine fire alarms, that was not so good the next day,” Professor Schmidt said.

Jokes aside, it’s understandable that supporters of the Save Bruce Hall campaign are upset about the impending loss of their original home.

Bruce was the first undergraduate residence built at the ANU, in 1961. It was also the first co-educational hall of residence in an Australian university. Hundreds of students have resided at Bruce while studying at ANU over the years, embracing the college’s tradition of striving for excellence in sports and the arts, and for encouraging each resident to achieve their own personal best in all aspects of life.

Proud residents have for decades represented Bruce in interhall sports from hockey to cricket and even ultimate frisbee. They’ve competed for glory in the spheres of music, literature, debating, public speaking, theatre and art in the Interhall Arts Shield. They’ve shaven their heads and grown moustaches en masse for charity. They’ve donned togas in O Week, painted in the Art Room and sculled beer in Bush Week, feasted and danced together in the Main Dining Hall, partied in the Buttery and debated college policy in the Common Room.

But do they need an ageing, asbestos-filled building to remain in place forever to celebrate and represent their community? A building that is costly for the university to heat and cool, and expensive to maintain?

Do they really want to retain the frankly rather plain and dated facility that housed Bruce’s cohort till now given the fact that Bruce Hall alumnus Graham Tuckwell and his wife Louise have donated $100 million to the university to build an absolute state of the art facility to replace it by 2019?

Yes, it’s sad to see the original building go, but if the university follows the recommendations of a November 2016 Heritage Impact Statement put together by planning consultant Paul D. Cohen of Campbell Dion, many of the college’s treasures will be retained.

Mr Cohen acknowledges the relationship between some alumni and the existing buildings, but argues that “the societal values attributed to the College are not place dependent. They are reliant on interpersonal relationships, and loyalties between persons and institutions, qualities that do not stand or fall on any particular location or place.”

“With respect to the alumni, it is respectfully suggested that the most important associational values relate to the internal strength and coherence of the alumni itself,” he writes.

The consultant believes that the importance of the traditions of the college to residents past and present reinforces a need to preserve its symbols and history “to secure Bruce Hall’s place in the history of the campus”.

“While visits to the campus for special occasions would be expected to evoke considerable nostalgia, the preservation of iconic and significant objects and records, and clear echoes of the original architecture in new buildings will assist the alumni to retain its memories of the former Hall,” he continues.

The new building could, for example, incorporate “significant expressed arches in the dining hall, reuse of the Fred Ward furniture and/or its replication, relocation of the dining hall end wall, and Leonard French art and retention/relocation of the Flugelman sculpture.”

“A properly curated exhibition of plans, photographs, models and furniture could be maintained in part of the new complex,” Mr Cohen writes.

The consultant advocates for retention of the existing names of wings, too.

SA5's 'The Buttery'. Photo: Charlotte Harper

ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt has a vision for the university that any student who wants to live on campus should be able to do so. He shares the Tuckwells aspiration that ANU students, and particularly residents of Bruce Hall, should be well-rounded individuals who strive to succeed in extra-curricular activities as well as academically. Professor Schmidt and the Tuckwells believe that providing ANU students with world class accommodation facilities in the tradition of Bruce Hall will provide them with the best opportunities to flourish.

SA5 hallway. Photo: Charlotte Harper

SA5 kitchen area. Photo: Charlotte Harper

SA5 bedroom desk. Photo: Charlotte Harper

SA5 bedroom. Photo: Charlotte Harper

SA5 pool table. Photo: Charlotte Harper

SA5 dining area. Photo: Charlotte Harper

It’s time for the Save Bruce Hall campaigners to acknowledge that there are reasons for these things (these things being the decision to upgrade Bruce Hall’s facilities, and those reasons being the inadequacy of the existing building to meet students and administrators’ needs). It’s time for them to stop whinging on social media and start working with the university to ensure that the heritage and history they care so deeply about is incorporated into the new Bruce Hall in a way that celebrates much that they hold dear about their college experience.

Pictured are several views of the new SA5 facility that will be home to Bruce Hall students for two years. Photos: Charlotte Harper

Charlotte Harper was an ANU student between 1990 and 1994 but did not live on campus.

What’s Your opinion?


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10 Responses to
Bruce Hall is dead, long live Bruce Hall
1
Mitchell 9:14 pm
22 Feb 17
#

This article recapitulates the ANU’s commissioned report by Campbell Dion to justify demolishing the old building.
Fact check: The old Bruce Hall is not asbestos-filled. This probably refers to the removal of accessible asbestos a few years ago.
Question: How is the new building “state-of-the-art”? It has vast expanses of west-facing glass, no eaves, and rooms that are smaller than in the previous hall. Heating and cooling will be very costly as a result of this poor design (Walking past it you can see some poor student has already put a fan in their window). The cost to students of living in the new building is higher, because amenities such as washing and drying (no clothes-lines!!) have to be paid for now, and there are fewer amenities (astroturf over lawn anyone?) The number of academic staff doesn’t seem to have increased despite the student numbers having doubled.

2
Hutchison 7:49 am
23 Feb 17
#

Yes, former Bruce Hall students have now been relocated to SA5 and it is a temporary arrangement until the real Bruce Hall is constructed. So let’s call SA5 for what it is “Bruce Hall On The Move” or Bruce Hall OTM.

Instead, it has been alarming for Bruce Hall Alumni to see that the ANU is badging SA5 on its own website as the new “Bruce Hall” i.e. ANU shows photos of the black glass building hidden at the back of the campus as “Bruce Hall” replacing the traditional majestic image of Bruce Hall presiding over Univetsity Avenue.

I note that Charlotte carefully sidestepped this re-badging that is going on by continuing to call it SA5.

Lets be clear with our branding:

SA5=Bruce Hall OTM (On The Move)

SA5 DOES NOT = Bruce Hall.

3
Charlotte Harper 11:01 am
23 Feb 17
#

Mitchell said :

This article recapitulates the ANU’s commissioned report by Campbell Dion to justify demolishing the old building.
Fact check: The old Bruce Hall is not asbestos-filled. This probably refers to the removal of accessible asbestos a few years ago.
Question: How is the new building “state-of-the-art”? It has vast expanses of west-facing glass, no eaves, and rooms that are smaller than in the previous hall. Heating and cooling will be very costly as a result of this poor design (Walking past it you can see some poor student has already put a fan in their window). The cost to students of living in the new building is higher, because amenities such as washing and drying (no clothes-lines!!) have to be paid for now, and there are fewer amenities (astroturf over lawn anyone?) The number of academic staff doesn’t seem to have increased despite the student numbers having doubled.

Re state of the art, I was referring to the new Bruce Hall complex to be built thanks to the $100 million gift from the Tuckwells, not SA5, though having taken a tour of SA5 yesterday I was pretty impressed with the facilities. The only negative remark I heard during the tour was that the ceilings are quite low. Re asbestos, the VC raised this in his media interview yesterday: “We expect construction [of the new Bruce Hall] to start in the next several months. There’s a lot of things like asbestos that needs to be dealt with, it’s from that era when there are lots of things that you need to do, so it’ll be in the months coming up.”

4
TenseTimesAtLifeHigh 11:12 am
23 Feb 17
#

Is this advertising or journalism? The only asbestos is the Mr Fluffy insulation in your article, isn’t it?…ring ring that’s the phone…it’s Trump, for you, and he’s saying something about FAKENEWS??# Isn’t this just a massive, unshielded, overt puff piece for Unilodge Pty Ltd, as naked as a Bruce Hall kid doing a nudie run through Johns XXII in O-Week? As raw as a bleeding rash from falling badly in the south quad which now won’t be experienced? As heartless as the building that’s just been built? Have you considered that uni students are missing out on properly built buildings in the name of profit?

Happy is he who knows the reason for things, indeed. Check these questions out:

Isn’t the real story that ANU has sold off Bruce Hall, a public Commonwealth building that it had only just nominated for Heritage Listing in 2012, to UniLodge Pty Ltd, a for-profit organisation to run? How much is UniLodge paying to ANU for this free brand that was public property? How much is that formerly publicly-owned brand worth, for this private corporation to slap on any construction they feel like to sell rooms? Won’t the students receiving the scholarships be forced to spend their scholarship money only at these UniLodge Pty Ltd buildings that are being variously named “Bruce Hall” , or face not receiving the scholarship? Won’t the students not have the freedom to rent where they choose on the open market if they receive the scholarship money? Did you miss that part? Isn’t this just the transferral of the brand name Bruce Hall to a private corporation who will now receive all scholarship moneys? Maybe these are all incorrect assumptions, maybe not? But as a journalist publishing this, would you be expected to check this sort of thing, before, say publishing it?

The only uplifting feeling I got reading this article was some reflux after eating too much popcorn waiting for the flame war. The new yet-to-be-built UniLodge…oops sorry Bruce Hall® with its Community Spirit® (not joking check UniLodge Pty Ltd’s fantastic website it’s already advertising rooms at $400+ per week with Community Spirit®) looks like someone vomited on a tabby cat, while SB5 looks like it was built in a year (*checks facts* #winnning). Is that…superglue…I see holding it together?

But who cares, right, because these are only students paying $400+ per week, right? They’re not really consumers deserving of decent ventilation, proper windows, because they’re just students right? And if they don’t want to live on campus they can just live in a normal house off campus and use their…use their…scholarship money…for that…right..right guys? If they…I mean if they don’t like these UniLodge Pty Ltd buildings, they can still get their scholarship? Right? Guys…guys where are you going?

What this is, surely, is the marketisation of the university to wealthy students at the expense of what the original building at the top of University Avenue represented, is it not? This is surely in reality a story about the desecration of a public building, representing fine Australian public education based on the public good, accessed through merit and without corporate influence – is it not?

Do Bunnings sell flame retardant suits? Imma get me a suit. Right after I finish at the sausage sizzle.

Also, I should make it extremely clear in this disclaimer that the above is all satire, every last word written.

5
GCS14 11:33 am
23 Feb 17
#

SA5 is a spectacular looking building.

6
crackerpants 4:59 pm
23 Feb 17
#

Charlotte, that was so upsetting to read, so insensitive. Too soon. Way too soon. My stomach lurched when I realised this was a piece written to deliver a final kick to Alumni, couched in promotional puffery.

My husband’s college in Adelaide is so old the Constitution was drafted there, and there it remains, still thriving as a home for students living away from their families.

7
John Moulis 5:17 pm
23 Feb 17
#

Every time I hear about Bruce Hall I remember my time at Melrose High in the early 1970s. Our science teacher was – you guessed it – Bruce Hall.

8
DNash 10:32 pm
23 Feb 17
#

So, the writer’s basis for “asbestos filled” was that there is some (inert sealed) asbestos (under one wing of Bruce Hall) which would have to be dealt with in the event of demolition (but which is otherwise not an issue, asbestos having being otherwise removed a few years ago). That”s one of several instances where the writer uncritically repeats statements from the Chancelry (and no mention of the ANU’s Oct 2015 report which recommended CHL listing). The writer seems to believe that value inherently decreases with age.
“Whinging on social media” (does this include the RiotAct?!): how about the 127 National Capital Authority submissions against demolition (and 2 in favour).
If only the writer did try to “discover the reason for things”…

9
TenseTimesAtLifeHigh 5:10 pm
03 Apr 17
#

So Charlotte, where’s your story about how the Federal Court has just blocked demolition so it can examine the situation?

10
TenseTimesAtLifeHigh 6:42 am
05 Apr 17
#

Update on the outcome for those interested in the destruction of Canberra’s heritage (credit: Canberra Times/Fairfax Media)
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/anu-bruce-hall-alumni-association-devastated-by-demolition-decision-20170404-gvd9o6.html

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