The new Learning Commons space at University of Northampton is a hub of social learning and social relaxing. A multi function space that redefines the traditional top down approach to learning and gives students a new media environment ready to be accessed via multiple docking points for laptops, plasmas, Ipods, Ipads and mobiles. Steve Beasant, Demco Interiors library design consultant, worked with the library team and Gaily Redmond, Environment Supervisor at the University to create a flexible, informal space for students to participate, share and create information.
With no shelving or core library products in place, the project is a good example of Demco’s ability to design and develop spaces that are fluid and flexible and miles away from any traditional library design template.
Gail Redmond said: ÔÇ£Our aim was to adopt a Learning Commons approach, more as an ideology rather than just to give a name to the space. Students today are used to being connected, so our take on the space was that students should view it as ÔÇÿmy space’ and move away from ÔÇÿknow and memorise’ to share, find, sort and create information. ÔÇ£
Maximum flexibility comes with Demco’s flexible study furniture, in this case in citrus colours, that can be linked and reconfigured by students to create the learning or social spaces they need at any one time. Groups can work together watching or giving presentations on plasma screens, and with numerous docking outlets located on tables throughout the area students can set up, put down, link up and switch off when they like.
Visitors enter through the main foyer into an informal meeting area and events space, where a combination of leather-look high backed seating forms a protective curve to define the area. Mixed with informal tables and chairs and laptop high benching and tables, with pull out extension outlets, this is a multi use space with a constant flow of students. Versatile, flexible and welcoming the area is busy yet relaxed and informal with students choosing to use the space as they wish. The seating can be moved back towards the wall while still retaining its curve for the area to be used for events, open days and displays.
Steve Beasant adds: ÔÇ£One of the challenges for this area was that the main entrance opens directly into the space bringing with it a flow of cold air, particularly at busy times when students are almost constantly in and out. We designed the leather look high backed seating as a barrier so that students are not sitting in a draft and we continued the high back theme in another breakout area where the high backs are configured to give student some privacy before waiting to go in and out of classes.
Social learning continues in the cafe area when students can sit on the Demco designed high level benching and small bistro style tables with built in pull out extension sockets. Traditional style cafe tables and chairs complete this multi use space.
Gail Redmond adds: ÔÇ£We went to the chair suppliers with Steve so that we could look and test different styles. We knew we wanted something that was robust enough to withstand heavy use by students but not heavy and easy to move around. Whatever we chose needed to fit into our remit for flexibility. Flexibility is key, static space was not what we are aboutÔÇØ.
The Main areas are bright open spaces designed and furnished to be adaptable, accessible and appealing catering for multiple group sizes. There is one small staff touchdown point otherwise staff are roving and easily accessible to students. The area is democratic and egalitarian and at a glance it is difficult to define staff from students which adds to the learning commons ideology.
Gail Redmond added: ÔÇ£We have worked with Demco before and their attitude towards flexible designs ticked all the boxes for this project. Everyone loves the new space.ÔÇØ
For our case study of University of Northampton click here.