Isn’t rotunda a great word? It conjures images of people so fat their stomachs spill, poking out from between stretched shirt buttons, rolling to their job in a bank. The Rotunda building at Winchester School of Art is sadly none of those things. It doesn’t have a protuberance striving for freedom, nor does it have ruddy cheeks.
The Rotunda is the cherry on Winchester School of Art’s cake, the most memorable building, the one with the best views, the one with a moat. The two stories of glass and concrete ice the structure perfectly, creating both a feeling of being “at one with nature” and king/queen of the castle. The Rotunda inspires students, not just those who worked in the amazing building, as can be seen from the great site and project by Europa (www.historyrepeatsitself.co.uk) but also others that attend WSA. It is the focal point of the campus, a bubble with fantastic light, a glass column making you feel outside, yet protected (slightly) from the lovely British weather.
In 1962, Winchester School of Art moved from it’s home in Wolvesey Palace (why?! Imagine being able to say you study in a Palace!) to the newly constructed buildings on Park Avenue. Hampshire council shrewdly decided to have the buildings specially designed to serve a second purpose if the need arose; a hospital. The School of Art’s corridors are long, the walls white and the rooms small; in the early sixties nuclear war was deemed a possibility, so it was constructed to be easily transformed into a working A&E. Walking the corridors on a quiet evening, it’s easy to imagine shouts and screams emanating from the rooms, doctors and nurses running down hallways, alarms sounding, the whole code-red-extra-heads caboodle.
Currently, it is being ‘refurbished’ and being turned back into a ‘study area’. Meaning third year Graphic Arts students can no longer survey their land and command their peasants from their white castle. Boring.