The new Charles Street building is notable for the informal spaces in the central areas of teaching floors in addition to the cafe and space outside the lecture theatre on the ground floor. Between them they provide a range of facilities for student study in-between classes and as break out spaces during class. Diverse seating types have been incorporated that allow students to relax together, engage in deep discussion, and work quietly in booths with high backs for added privacy. Throughout the spaces power is wired into the seating allowing students to charge their devices between classes or make sure they are topped up for breakout work.
Some students have already been given a glimpse of the building and have responded very favourably.
“Little things like after a lecture, or a seminar, sometimes you’ve got group activities and you find yourselves losing each other, but here you can kind of come back after a lecture or seminar and find a space and actually do your group work rather than having to faff about in the library and find somewhere.”
“I’d say particularly with the secluded booths that are around you can have a lot more independent study than in the library… These new booths will be really helpful for when you need to really focus on your work.”
Informing the design has been the idea of the ‘sticky campus’ – a place where students want to stay to study. This is particularly important where students can end up having a frustrating and fragmented day,
“Since I commute in, normally if we have a 4 or 5 hour gap I kind of struggle, time-wise. Having this space and study rooms, and stuff like booths, that would be more useful for me so I don’t have to go all the way home and all the way back. I can go in a booth and spend four hours there and maybe feel more productive with my day.”
The Charles Street building reflects the ubiquity of personal technologies that students have these days. The students tell us they are keen to use their own technologies if it means their learning experience in and out of the classrooms can be more seamless and interactive.
“It becomes a lot more interactive and a lot more accessible, rather than reading a book or losing a piece of paper – which I quite often do. It’s better to have it all there online, so you can refer back to it or add bits quickly to each other’s points. So it’s quite an effective use of our time in the sessions.”
The informal spaces are intended to provide students with facilities for pre-class lead in time, space for break outs, and post-class follow through time and, according to the students who have toured the building, the design is looking very promising.