The story behind the story

People like stories. The stories we tell ourselves help us to make sense of the world.

In my last post, I briefly celebrated the creation of a new green space on campus.  It was my interpretation of what I saw. An unloved building pulled down and in its place, not a shiny new building, but an open rectangle of grass. I marvelled that the land had been valued for its capacity to act as a momentary horizontal pause, between buildings, and not for its potential to accommodate vertically enclosed work space. All of which is true, but there is more to this story.

The ugly unloved building actually had a name. The Transient Building. Erected in 1945 in the inter-war functionalist style, it was considered a temporary means of accommodating a rapid increase in student numbers, generated by the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme for returned ex-servicemen. The digital historical record of the building includes mentions of its flexible and functional architectural properties, its persistence despite its name, news of its demise, a flurry of images precipitated by its demise and even a dedicated FaceBook page.

It seems that I am not the only person interested in the story of this space. Ten days ago, as I wandered past considering the practicalities of setting up a time-lapse camera to see how people colonised it over the course of a week, a month, a year……when I saw someone else setting up a tripod. I stopped to chat and found that they were taking photographs for an article in SAM (The Sydney Alumni Magazine).

I’ve not thought anymore about how to set up a time lapse camera. I got diverted, thinking about how to communicate interest rather than surveillance. But I have had further cause for celebration. The other morning as I rounded the corner, I came to a halt. For, there on the grass, were two formations that were instantly recognisable to me as learning-circles.


The story of ‘the learning circle’ deserves a blog of its own.  But for today, my intention was simply to recored their emergence on the green rectangle, where the transient building had stood for over 70 years.

Perhaps progress is non-linear and sometimes requires the intentional creation of open space into which learners are free to move.


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