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This article is an opinion piece and should be taken as such. It is highly likely to be biased, but either the article itself or the ensuing discussion will probably be entertaining. Live! takes no editorial line on opinion pieces.

'Ere look at us! We're great.

Jan 07 2004 15:04
Andrew Caisley
This week Le Potage goes a bit bonkers and actually likes something
Some people said it looked like a petrol station, but quite a funky one.

Passing through London this week I clocked a notice at Paddington station. It declared "A GOOD service is operating on all underground lines". I was not expecting a bad service. I was just taken aback to see the British taking the risk of blowing their own trumpet. It is not something we do.

No one ever comments on the lack of bureaucracy in our government. No one exclaims loudly how fantastic it is not to have to take a plane to Amsterdam or Berlin in order to fly anywhere useful. No headlines are written celebrating the fact that our newspapers remain untamed. Thankfully, Sir Richard Sykes does not appear to suffer from any such timidity.

I've been out of London for nearly four months. In that time two large projects have changed Imperial significantly. Passing through on Saturday I spent five minutes nosing round the giant South Kensington construction site. It struck me that The Tanaka building and the new Administration Building are the most significant steps forward for Imperial in years.

The Tanaka building places the business school, where a world-class team has long languished in sub-standard accommodation, in surroundings it deserves. The investment of tens of millions of pounds may well earn itself back many times over.

The new administration building is no less significant. It mirrors the strides which have been made in improving the administration of the college (rebranding, kicking out medieval management techniques). We may at last be in a position to advance together with the biggest names in Industry, Commerce and Government. Dare I say it, we may be finally catching on to what the folks in East Anglia, Oxford and Massachussets have known for years; presentation is vital if anyone is ever going to care about content.

Forget whether you like Lord Foster, the blue glass or indeed the idea of spending money on such projects as this while (barely 100 metres away) Southside falls apart. You may even forget the fact that some tomfool of a civil engineer decided to drive piles into Dalby court in the middle of exam season last year.

For years every single student, lecturer, cleaner, researcher and barman at Imperial has known how much we can offer the world. We have finally placed a double page advert on Exhibition Road "A GREAT service is operating at Imperial College".

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Discussion about “'Ere look at us! We're great.”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
1. n/a   
Jan 08 2004 13:46
 

Except of course that the management school is generally looked down upon by proper sciences and engineering department students. So the least scientific subject now has the flashiest building, while more noble causes are caught in ageing 1950s (or older) facilities....

Hmmmmm. At least Imperial didn't have to pay for it, or there'd be an outrage of criticism, I suspect...

Jan 08 2004 13:53
 

If you were a loaded alumni, would you donate millions to build, say, a new department of Bioengineering? Personally speaking, I'd buy a patch of rainforest instead...

3. Mum   
Jan 08 2004 14:00
 

But Imperial is paying for the Faculty building. While I agree with Andrew's points about image being important and buildings contributing to that. I, like n/a, do think that if it's the research activities that we are advertising then it would be more appropriate to have an academic department in the flashy building rather than the college administrative staff.

On a more positive note - top marks for the face lift given to the Biology (or is it Chemistry?) building opposite the library.

Jan 08 2004 15:53
 

It's Biochemistry, I think Chemistry will probably get it done in a few years, and Biology is in the BMS.

Jan 08 2004 16:26
 

"It struck me that The Tanaka building and the new Administration Building are the most significant steps forward for Imperial in years."

Wow, two buildings that aren't 1970s concrete. What about http://www.imperial.ac.uk/P2017.htm ? It even has enough cycle racks! But then I suppose it's not in the right place to be seen by quite so many people from Central London (apart from the hundreds attending conferences every year...)

And I don't think the objections to rebranding were because people don't think image is important... on the contrary, they value the public face of their College enough that they would rather have a Crest than 2-tone blue Arial, before you even get onto the issue of how much they would have been happy to see our "cash-strapped" College spend on a rebrand if it had actually been a change for the better.

Jan 08 2004 17:47
 

Its a shame the Tanaka building doesn't completely hide the horrible looking building(s) behind it.

7. Sam   
Jan 08 2004 18:02
 

The Faculty building is necessary for a few reasons:

1) To consolidate admin to reduce wastage (College admin is a rabbit warren of different offices, stupidly located)

2) To provide for emptying huge swathes of Sherfield so that it can be used to decant departments and allow for substantial departmental rebuilding (gone will be those 50's building you all hate)

3) To give me a new office with easy access to the EE Cafe.

The Management School may be looked down upon by many students and staff in College, but it is a huge money spinner and farms out highly paid Alumni. (did you think Mr Tanaka was an Equine Science graduate??) It is currently housed in borrowed lecture theatres and a building older by a century or more than those 1950s edifices that everyone derides. The is money in providing Management courses, so why not invest in it?

And one of those "horrible looking buildings" almost hidden by the Tanaka building is my beloved department Sumeet... Oh and it's yours too...

Jan 08 2004 19:06
 

AFAIK, Gary Tanaka was a mathematics postgraduate, and donated about ?29mill to both Imperial (for the business school and entrance) and to MIT as well.

I'm doing maths ... one day perhaps!!

Jan 08 2004 19:58
 

Why do so many people look down on the business School? I'm in it this year and it's pretty impressive (the lecturers are 100x better), compared with my ?science? subject. And I get to study in the new building too. Woooohoooooo!

the school is a huge moneyspinner (MBA = ?28,000), but since the arrival of Sir Richard Sykes, all the money the business School makes, stays within the department, whereas before it was used as a cash cow.

10. Ameet   
Jan 08 2004 20:00
 

Actually, I know why mech students look down on us, we nick their lecture theatres, and their common room!

11. ant   
Jan 09 2004 00:06
 

Is it just me or does the management school just look likeas if they ran out of money half way and so they could only glass half of it.

Cast Iron pillars painted white might look nice now but they'll look grotty and rust soon enough, unless one boke is constantly going to be swinging on them repainting.

12. Sam   
Jan 09 2004 12:59
 

I don't like your maths Antony... Building is 3 sections divided by pillars. 2 Sections have glass inside them. The other is vacant. I make that 2/3 full.

But anyway, It's more like they had too much steel left over, so rather than ship the extra pillars back to the manufacturer, they put them up in the vain hope that someone would donate ?12M to extend the building.

13. Nia   
Jan 09 2004 13:51
 

One day. When I'm rich. And I'll insist that the money is spent on building a new skating rink.

On a more serious note, in response to John, I (perhaps naievely) have sufficient faith in research, that I think I would consider spending money a posh, well equipped, ecology department that would nuture the talents of people who with an interest in these things to scatter about the realms of industry and that could carry out research developing ways of how forest resources can be used to boost the local economy as needed in a sustainable way or find the next drug for cancer from some rainforest plant (which would then give financial incentive to maintain it etc).

14. amram   
Jan 09 2004 14:00
 

again n/a with his philistine attitudes...

Management is indeed a worthy subject encompassing a wide range of field from Statistics to Economics to Accounting to Sociology. It is very well renowned at IC- where the business school is one of the best in Europe- and is very important and relevant to life! Mech Eng. - indeed is an important subject too but in the real world managers, are needed to plan, budget and direct the firms the engineers work for. Indeed the engineers themselves learn some management subjects enabling them to know how to better allocate resources, plan projects effectively and make informed decisions!!

15. n/a   
Jan 09 2004 18:26
 

Yeah, but it's neither science, technology, nor medicine.

If we give the management school a building of their own, next in line would be the school of humanities...

All worthy subjects, but not at all what Imperial stands for and markets itself to be. If a university spends time and effort to place itself as purely scientific, technological and medical institution, with no regard for subjects that are not objectively verifiable or logical, then it is hypocritical to have the management department in the most impressive / new building.

16. amram   
Jan 09 2004 20:48
 

1. The science technology and medicine thing was dropped after rebranding

2. Management at IC has many scientific/mathematicla aspects to it.

3. management has been accepted as an acadmeci discipline for over 40 years- in fact it was first taught at Imperial in 1955

4. Your'e just jealous of management's swanky new building...

Jan 09 2004 20:50
 

1. The science technology and medicine thing was dropped after rebranding

2. Management at IC has many scientific/mathematical aspects to it.

3. Management has been accepted as an academic discipline for over 40 years- in fact it was first taught at Imperial in 1955

4. Your'e just jealous of management's swanky new building...

Jan 09 2004 23:06
 

Amram, just a slight correction

The Royal Charter still states (and I quote)

"AND WHEREAS on the 22nd day of June 1988 the Royal Charter of the Imperial College of Science and Technology was amended by Order in Council to change the name of the body to the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine"

With no further amendments.

We are therefore still officially ICST&M.

Jan 09 2004 23:07
 

Just to make it clearer, that there is in fact more to that point, but it's only about the College taking on the responsibilities of St. Marys.

20. spoon   
Jan 10 2004 08:34
 

" but it's only about the College taking on the responsibilities of St. Marys."

are you saying the medic bretheren are not important?

;-)

21. tom t   
Jan 10 2004 16:45
 

where you teach a subject has got sweet FA to do with how good that subject is. Oxbridge seem to do well in buildings of which some are over 800 years old.

And if Tanaka really gave a toss about IC he would have given the money as an endowment to allow the brightest and best students study here more easily on scholarships. But no, he wants his money exclusively to be used to build a massive greenhouse named after himdself with massive running costs! Fan-blardy-tastic.

Incidentally, a humanities dept would be good for IC as it would allow the variable top-up fee here to be reduced, as humanities would subsidise the vastly more expensive sciences. As it is, IC will be probably the most expensive UK university, because we teach exclusively courses with massive overheads. Attracting bright young uns to study here, and shock horror, stay on here and become another badly paid academic with huge debts (to teach future young uns) is only going to get harder, compounded by the misguided 'philanthropy' of one Dr Tanaka.

22. James   
Jan 10 2004 17:12
 

Tanaka's motives aside, he gave the money to college for the business school and within that remit I think estates have done bloody well with it. Now if the money had come from IC's own budget the discussion would be very different...

Oh, and I think I remember reading somewhere that Tanaka actually didn't want the building named after him, but college insisted!

23. Nia   
Jan 10 2004 17:47
 

The building does make a difference. It raises morale and helps students and academics value the work they do. It also helps promote a positive image to would-be investors.

Whether it makes a greater or lesser difference than scholarships for students would, is however a different question.

24. tom t   
Jan 10 2004 17:53
 

Oh, and I think I remember reading somewhere that Tanaka actually didn't want the building named after him, but college insisted!

in which case i take it all back, but I still believe that the building could have been designed better from an energy perspective. I look forward to finding out what proportion of the 10MW cable's capacity will disappear when Tanaka comes on-line.

As an aside - American unis work reasonably because they have collossal endowment funds. We don't, but if we care about access for intelligent students, we ought to.

25. Nia   
Jan 10 2004 20:01
 

They should have called it The Gary Building. Or maybe just Gary.

26. ant   
Jan 11 2004 04:33
 

What nia, and paint it bright yellow?

27. will-h   
Jan 11 2004 13:27
 

Modern buildings aren't usually too bad for energy consumption. Tanaka is cooled by new absorbtion chillers on the ME roof (stand at the entrance to EE, look up, you can see the blockhouses on ME and Bessemer). These form part of an eventual campus-wide cooling infrastructure.

The best thing IMO about the building is that it will create a new, decent looking entrance for ME & College, and also providing conference space which will doubtless recoup a lot of running costs.

That said, whilst I think SAFB is excellent I'm not a huge fan of some of Sir Norman Fosters designs - think he's lost the way a bit in recent years. As an academic building I don't think Tanaka presents very good value for money.

I remember when I was applying to Uni lots of people were put off by Imperial's grey drab buildings. Those that are s**t (Huxley, Southside) will need to be demolished in the next few years. Those that are decent (ME, Blackett, Sherfield, RSM...) can be or are being refurbished. The disruption is a pain but it's all long overdue. I welcome it.

28. Ameet   
Jan 11 2004 14:54
 

The building was a necessity. You can argue about its design, energy consumption etc. but it was needed. If the building wasn't made you'd have to continue with the current situation which is not good:

1)the department has a substandard building with NO lecture theatres

2)we have to use the mechanical engineering lecture theatres and thus have last priority when booking rooms

3)how can you expect to attract and charge ?28,000 for an MBA when you're building doesn't even have lecture theatres, and your facilities are c**p

And unfortunately image is very important. The new building will improve the image of college, and along with the reputation of the business School enhance everybody's degree.

29. ant   
Jan 11 2004 15:20
 

Suppose at least it forced them to install some form of double glazing on levels 6 and 7 of Mech Eng, in the design rooms at least.

30. Tank   
Jan 15 2004 18:45
 

On my recent(-ish) return to the glorious environs of IC, it was immediately obvious what a difference the new facade of the Tanaka building does for Exhibition Road (let alone the College). In return this should generate a better impression to those looking to attend the College (or more importantly for the Rector) invest in the College. However the Faculty building looks vile and nothing like those notorious Artist impressions. The coloured panels look like the plastic sheets you used to vac-form in school technology lessons.

At the very least we should all be glad that they are individual and not identikit pre-fab buildings a lot of places are erecting these days.

31. Dave   
Feb 17 2004 18:28
 

The building at the back of the mech eng is an eye-sore. No one in their right mind would stick a blue/purple/puke coloured cube in this tiny sapce unless they had a serious grudge against society or have watched too much star-trek (more probable).

Oh well at least it will be entertainement to the local potheads....

Feb 18 2004 17:22
 

I heard the other day the real reason that the faculty building has different coloured tiles. apparently, they were ordered in several batches, but somebody screwed up, and ordered the wrong colours. as the tiles were brought 'on the cheap' they couldn't be returned, so the just arranged them in a random colour patern. Et viola! a major c**k-up turned into a intentional-looking design feature! I just hope the same guy wasn't in charge of ordering the foundations or lifts...

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