Eqo Leung

In the design of the new University of Waikato law school New Zealand architect Eqo Leung, who recently opened a new architectural practice called ArchitectureRepublic, decided to keep the building’s courtyard open.

The idea was inspired by a Maori belief that all elements such as wind, rain and sun, for instance, are important for learning and life and that keeping a connection with the natural elements will inspire the learning process.

According to Mr Leung, this approach is an example of how social sustainability is increasingly a focus in architecture.

In the design of the University of Waikato school, Mr Leung told The Fifth Estate that he drew heavily on the ethos of social sustainability – that is, building in a way that continually motivates its users to grow and learn.

Mr Leung also “added an extra, or overriding layer, of ‘bi-culturalism’: the synergy between traditional Maori learning (which is a very social/interactive and sometimes informal way) and modern tertiary educative process.”

He said that this involved “lots of ‘incidental’ spaces to encourage interactions (learning through peers, informal discussion with lecturers), as well as small meeting spaces for more formal group discussions, as opposed to just learning in large lecture theatres.”

The building also boasts a range of environmental sustainability features, including a natural ventilation system that means airconditioning is not needed.

Other features proposed as part of the early design process include solar assisted hot water heating as a heat source, and glazed corridor walls that will help disperse natural light throughout the building.

The work has won a place for Mr Leung as a finalist for the World Architecture Awards.

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