Thursday, 25 June 2015

Observations on the use of group study pods

I was recently staying at Westminster University's Marylebone Hall which houses The Faculty of Architecture and Built Environment which houses a very nice open plan learning space. It was spacious, with loads of natural light, busy with some quiet spots, and linked to other spaces such as a halls of residence, library, cafe, lecture theatres and administration offices. Overall a very nice space.

One morning, whilst checking out the furniture and the use thereof more closely, I noticed that pod like benches were being turned into private office like spaces for individual use. Now let me be clear, this is an observation not a criticism as I have no idea what the design brief was but I very much doubt that this is the type of use envisaged. It may be that this type of use of the furniture \ space is only tolerated at quiet times. If anyone from Westminster reads this perhaps they could clarify.

Here are two halves of a pod separated


Here are the two halves brought together to make a private work space usually for one person, at least the three I saw configured like this only had one person in.
Whilst writing this post it has occurred to me that the fire officer may not be over the moon about this configuration i.e a room without a door.

My point is that when designing pod like areas, probably with group work in mind, be mindful that it is likely that they will be used in a way that was not envisaged and sometimes undesirable.

As a comparison here is a pod that I installed in 2014 using Space Oasis furniture. It is not mobile and is used by lone occupants and groups. Groups tend to request lone occupants if they can use the space if no other appropriate spaces are available. In effect self-policed by the students making best use of available space. That is another topic i.e. ownership. Which of course is exactly what the students at Westminster feel confident about.

Any other examples people would like to add please feel free.

I cannot leave this post without mentioning this furniture. Sorry Westminster.

My first impressions was that it is modern, attractive and functional after further observation and reflection I think that the intention of a four seat desk space, two people either side, will not be fulfilled once one occupant takes up residence. The first person in ‘owns’ the space.

 Once again it could be that because the space is quiet at this time of year the students are more spread out. There seems to be an awful lot of real estate on the desks difficult to use from a seated position but please bear in mind that this is an architectural faculty so space may be required for models and large drawings.

I guess this post is emphasising the need for a clear brief (a recurring theme in this blog) describing the type of use you want to use the  furniture for but even then it may not be used as designed or envisaged and that can result in inappropriate use of space and even undesirable health and safety issues.
As usual all comments welcomed.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Refurbishment starts on lecture theatres

Here are some pictures of the rooms we have strated to refurbish at Aberystwyth Univerity. Expected finish date early September. Completed pictures posted in September.


Friday, 27 March 2015

Power provision at seats in lecture theatres

I have designed 6 lecture theatres I am refurbishing this summer  with one twin power outlet with USB between each pair of seats. This is in response to the growth of mobile devices now being used by students and the positive response I had to similar proviaion I made last year in an IT lab see here 
It is co-incidental that a collegaue of mine at Birmingham University, James Rutherford initiated a discussion on the SCHOMS forum about this very provision.

In particular James asked about the provision of power below the work surface in a traditional lecture theatre.
My opinion is that that this is a bad idea for several reasons. I am intersesetd to learn how others are dealing with this surge in demand in lecture theatres in particular?

My reply to James is below.

Interestingly, I am installing some this year but have decided that they should be mounted on the tops. The space they take up is minimal and one twin 240v and usb unit can be shared by two seats.
I did some very basis research and discovered  that the ones under the desk are not well used compared to ones easily accessible, this was confirmed by or furniture supplier. In my opinion having a socket and mains leads under desks where people are continually plugging and unplugging is not desirable.
I installed some last year on the Top Tech Venus desks in an IT lab and they were so well received that I am installing them in 6 lecture theatres this summer. I have gone for a pattress similar to this

One thing to beware of is that you do not want knockout on the sides or back, just the underside.

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