Friday, November 7, 2008

Another day, another building...

Another day, another building visit - this time to Telford College in Edinburgh. This design (the subject of many case studies) is interesting because it offers a very clear 'diagram' of how educational spaces could change as information and communication technologies (ICT) become ubiquitous to learning. 

Telford College (by HOK architects) is formed around a large atrium which combines a cafe with informal learning spaces and wireless connection to the university portal. This high, light and top-lit space is surrounded by several floors of classrooms all linked by spines of 'learning streets' - extra wide double-height corridors. These colour-coded learning streets contain rows of open access computers, together with alcoves at various intervals (and used for various things) and are supported by a help-desk in each spine.

Staff accommodation is also different to most universities and colleges - everyone put together into one 3,000 sqm open plan office, with 85% hot-desking supported by a variety of informal and formal social and group spaces.

Interestingly, I combined this visit with going to the launch of the Explore It toolkit at the University of Dundee. Designed by DEGW, together with the University of Strathclyde, the toolkit is crucially about helping  those participating in new buildings or adaptations to imagine the possibilities; through a series of diagrammatic and inter-changeable building plan drawings. 

The Explore It toolkit focusses on academic workplaces, suggesting a series of different core arrangements (called Studies, Quarters, Clusters, Hubs and Clubs) with different implications for staff activities and relationships.  The bottom line is, of course, how to reduce the amount of space most universities allocate to academics and the perceived under-occupation of this space. From this website, you can also download the background research paper entitled "The changing academic workplace" by Andrew Harrison and Antonia Cairns from DEGW - all part of the Effective Spaces for Working in Higher and Further Education project funded by the Scottish  Funding Council.

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