This was the first day in a long while that I walked through this particular part of campus – in fact, searching now for the centre photo I realise it’s been exactly 8 months – and I’m struck by how much it has changed. Previously home to one of the university’s so-called ‘transient buildings’, hastily constructed to cope with the influx of students after World War II, the site is now open space.
Contrary to their name, the transient buildings continued to be occupied far beyond their intended use-life. For many students they were viewed as the ugliest buildings on campus, while others called for them to receive heritage protection (admittedly for their social and historical, rather than aesthetic, value).
My own first encounters with the transient building come from my primary school years, when I would spend afternoons in my mother’s office in the building across the road, where she worked in the Sociology Department (or occasionally sneaking off to the Nicholson Museum to stare at the mummies, or explore the main quadrangle in search of the elusive kangaroo gargoyle). The building was always an imposing presence, somehow looking simultaneously like it had been (and would be) there forever, and like it could fall apart with the slightest gust of wind.
Initially intended to serve only as a stop gap, the transient buildings instead served many generations of students. It’s only now, 70 years after construction, that they’ve been allowed to live up to their name.