Grand designs

I went to the library this week. (Just to explicitly assure you all at the outset– this is not an isolated incident).

I went because I wanted to see the result of all the hard work that’s been undertaken in Phase 1 of the Library Development Project (or in the acronym-laden shorthand of UoS (see?) the LDP.)

I’ve been in many times during the developments and, on these adhoc visits, gained the kind of picture one has when one can’t access the actual spaces being transformed because of lack of a hard-hat and elfansafetee. Consequently, one experiences changes in a slightly vicarious manner, trying to accumulate an accurate sense of the shifts in character of the building through drawings, photos and reports. In visits during the building phase I also saw the impact of things being moved around the library, and so gained a sense of the scale of change, so I had an idea… However, similarly to my first visit to the brand new New Adelphi building, (which houses our School of Arts and Media and some of our School of the Built Environment) until one experiences walking round a changed environment, the full realisation of difference between the before and after worlds doesn’t really hit home.

One of the key ideas behind the redesign and redevelopment was the idea of celebrating the fact that our university has a very green campus. We’re right next to Peel Park and the design team (students were engaged and worked throughout the LDP process, including the development of live curriculum briefs associated with the work) wanted to bring out the idea of ‘library in the park’ in the way the place felt. It’s really worked; the whole redesign has a much lighter, more spacious feel to it, whilst at the same time retaining the opportunity for students to find a cosy quiet corner to work.

What struck me walking round both redesigned floors was the ways in which the environment very gently, playfully and productively nudged behaviours and the ways in which users might interact with each other in different spaces, and with the spaces themselves. For instance, rather than the previously ubiquitous and tatty photocopied A4 sign asking for (demanding) certain behaviours to be observed, (Quiet PLEASE – silent study ONLY’ – this sign is usually fiercely blue-tacked to a door at eye level, but then printed in Comic Sans so as to retain the typically British brand of passive-aggressive office etiquette) in this new learning environment, the ask for such behaviours has been playfully built into the interior design. It’s cool and light (hearted).

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Elsewhere there is a feeling of the relaxed outdoors-indoors, achieved through the colour palette and by the design effectively soft-zoning certain areas. I was struck by the way these were being used by students – individual students using the same spaces were able to use them very differently and yet happily co-exist without disrupting one another.

A big element of the way the spaces nudge positive behaviours is the light, again supporting that idea of zoned activities. There’s also beautiful little design ideas bought to the lighting.

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Overall, all the redesigned space is so much lighter, particularly when sitting in the deckchairs that look out over to Peel Park (Given the time of year, the deckchairs didn’t quite push me to an icecream and a snooze with sand between my toes, but you get the idea…)

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Another aspect of the success of this project has been the timing of it. Right from the get go, students helped steer the timing of it against their deadlines – to minimise impact, the Estates Team and the contractors did a lot of the work at night. We’ve also split the LDP into two phases, with Phase 2 coming in summer ’17 so as to skip the busy period where the focus is on exams and coursework submissions. Anyhow, here’s a link to a whole gallery of images which showcase the current developments

The Students’ Union were also central to this work and have been close to the development throughout its journey. In one of her recent weekly vlogs, the SU president, Ceewhy Ochoga reflected on the library development. Aside from being a born natural in front of the camera (I am considering contacting her for lessons) Ceewhy shares a really great perspective on the work. Check it out here

When put together, the LDP, and the New Adelphi, and before that, the building of our new student accommodation, represent the beginning of a significant shift in our campus at Salford. We’re working on a campus framework, and the word ‘campus’ is deliberate – it signifies both the physical and the digital domains, and indeed the relationship and interconnectivity between them, as we seek to build a holistic learning environment which deliberately and intelligently fosters success. The spaces and spheres we inhabit are key to developing the way we, as members of a learning community, engage with each other and our work – the way our environment makes us feel and consequently, behave is central to us successfully realising the full potential of our industry collaboration zones. To this end, the campus framework intentionally and playfully fosters active and collaborative learning, encouraging exploration and exchange. It’s an exciting journey to be starting. As I generally seem to have eager fingers gleefully plunged into the creative pies which represent the development and steering of both physical and digital domains, I’m sure related (and inevitably tangential) musings will skip across this blog in future entries…

As for the library – more changes are coming in the Summer as Phase 2 kicks off. Watch this space…

See you next week.

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Author: samgrogan

I am many sided; Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Experience at Salford University, Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, driven Tough Mudder runner, and a lover of the outdoors. I live in the heart of the beautiful Peak District with my wife and our pets. On weekends, you'll find me out in the countryside with the dog, running or walking up a hill, or typically cooking for friends (I'm getting better, so they say) My role at Salford is one I cherish. I'm one of the fortunate few who wake up excited about the day ahead. It's really not work when it's this much fun. As part of the Vice-Chancellor's Executive Team I work alongside a gifted and dedicated team of creative educationalists passionate about being better tomorrow than we are today. As PVC SE at Salford I hold executive responsibility for both the assurance of quality and standards of our institutional academic portfolio, and its strategic direction and character. Intertwined with this facet of my role, I am responsible for strategic leadership and enhancement of the wider student experience and the development of a distinctive Salford learning environment. My overall purpose, driven by these two key parts of my role, is to develop a bold, playful learning landscape at Salford which delivers holistic sustainable success, preparing our students for life. I'm fascinated by how people learn, and how we might collectively make that experience result in a profound expansion of personal and professional horizons and an extension of possibilities for all parties involved. My greatest reward comes from seeing thresholds crossed, barriers broken, new habits formed and changes made. To this end, I'm also endlessly absorbed in considering how we might develop better, more useful ways of integrating the digital landscape and other technologies, emerging and present, into the act of learning. I think we're just beginning - a brave new world awaits... My background is in performance - Before undertaking my PhD and before spending the first half of my university career as a lecturer, programme leader and head of department, in my early career I acted, danced and made theatre across the world. This ten year experience continues to be fundamental in shaping the way I think about teaching and learning. At its best I see it as a facilitated journey of discovery, play, risk and adventure anchored in 'reflective doing'. Not 'knowing' in this context is often a signal that a useful path is being trodden - Thinking on its own is just rehearsal...

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