loughborough centenary lecture

on 28th april i was lucky enough to attend one of the loughborough university centenary lectures – “the campus is dead: long live the campus”, delivered by peter jamieson from the university of melbourne. now, let’s leave aside the irony of having a lecture about new learning space design being delivered in a large lecture theatre. and let’s politely not mention that it would have been much more useful for me to have written these notes up closer to the time.

i’ll admit to a certain amount of trepidation as i headed down to loughborough – after all, a lot of the learning space things i’ve stumbled across recently have been very same-old-same-old, so i wasn’t expecting it to be that useful. happily, however, i was wrong – and that’s not something i’ll admit to regularly.

so here are some of the main messages that i picked out from the lecture, and a few random thoughts of my own:

  • campuses often lack spontaneity, and can be ‘dead spaces’ with no heart, no unifying features- having concentrated on functionality of spaces, we’ve lost the sense of space;
  • when we’re talking about a ‘place of learning’ we should view learning as something more than a curriculum-related activity – we should be creating communities of scholars for sharing practice and ideas – and as important we should be creating places for students to be [i wholeheartedly agree with the idea of viewing learning as more than curriculum! this was one of those “isn’t that common sense, doesn’t everyone think this though?” moments for me – but i realise that isn’t so] – at melbourne, they’ve found that international students particularly congregate in spaces where they can ‘be’;
  • environments should be enriching – features that make us feel uplifted (eg, atriums, high ceilings, etc) make us feel appreciated [this makes sense to me…though i have no evidence for it];
  • why are we on campus? we need to articulate the benefits of having students together in the classroom, and design accordingly – eg, enable students to learn with and from each other, enable them to ‘let go’ of their own world views and understandings, to share thoughts and outputs;
  • we shouldn’t try to make one space do too many things [at this point i wrote “hurrah!” in my notes – i can only assume it had been a bad week, and i was pleased to hear someone say this 🙂 ] – spaces should have 2 core modes of use, for additional functions we should think about adjacency of complementary spaces;
  • we should value emptiness – eg, pathways within a space enourages movement between groups, and encourages unexpected use of empty space [again, it’s refreshing to hear this – we’ve been trying to use a space within our learning centre to demonstrate this, and focus on giving students plenty of personal space around them – but it’s a battle when you also need to focus on providing space for high numbers of students – at a later point, though, he made a good point that rather than “losing capacity” we might actually enhance/increase its use, and students’ satisfaction with it];
  • spaces should be small enough to feel comfortable – intimate spaces are better than large spaces on the scale of heathrow airport [i did chuckle to myself at this point – peter showed some pictures of one space which is frequently touted around people who in my opinion should know better, and said that in his view it was ineffective because of its scale, and that they had to include “silly features” to try and give a sense of intimacy in a space that’s too open];
  • just because we’ve created one space that works, we shouldn’t just replicate it elsewhere on campus – instead we need to look at spaces within context and think what would be the best response in that situation – and we should actively bring staff into new spaces, and let the space “happen” to someone – give them time to use it and experience it for themselves.

so, lots of food for thought – and i’m sure i’ll return to some of these musings as we progress with the next phase of developments here!


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