The new learning commons: creating distinctive student-centric environments

An award-winning building on Australia's Gold Coast is home to Griffith University Learning Commons, offering students a choice of formal and informal learning spaces.

19 June 2014

External

The environment and climate have permitted the creation of learning spaces in which students can move from study spaces to social spaces, from formal to informal learning styles, from interior to exterior areas, and into multi-purposed spaces able to host performance, exhibitions, collaborations and other events.

In terms of meeting what students actually want from a learning environment the architects, ThomsonAdsett, aimed ‘to provide choice, comfort, spaces that students actually want to be in, formality, informality, ease of connectivity and accessibility, varying degrees of acoustic control, retreat spaces and a strong association with key artworks, culture and the natural environment of in-between spaces.’

Study hall

The volume under the building’s ‘shard’ provided the perfect setting for a space of a collaborative and experimental nature.

Various formal and informal spaces enable students to meet, learn, withdraw, share knowledge, take in oxygen, relax, be visible, valued, enjoy serendipitous encounters and access a myriad of support services.

The three level structure has a ground floor social learning space integrated with the external spaces; first floor seminar rooms and terraces that incorporate the concept of a learning ‘aviary’: a garden space framed by the building facades; and a ‘sky lounge’, a roof level flexible space that can be used for break-outs, more formal consultation or corporate events.

Aviary

‘We have taken risks and created experimental spatial canvasses where students can express themselves. Students will utilise spaces differently at differing times of the academic year, they can lose themselves within the collection stack, attend a seminar, meet, greet, debate, recline, or occupy a quiet pocket of the library for a more intensive individual or group study.’

The building encourages use outside of term time and enables 24/7 use in part which is critical in light of the variable courses on offer and the number of students studying while maintaining other work commitments.

Graham Legerton, who led the project for ThomsonAdsett, told Designing Libraries: ‘The design of the library has been inspired by observing user needs and offering a choice of settings for the varying demands of the different semesters. We have endeavored to embrace the outdoors and to create extensive learning landscapes that are framed by geometries derived through an extension of the existing building.

'Space is agile, environmentally responsive, collaborative and intentionally permeable providing a diversity of experiences for staff and students. The form serves as a wayfinding device promoting the presence of this critical component of campus life and enabling the socialisation of space and place.'

Sky lounge

Photos: Angus Martin

The environment and climate have permitted the creation of learning spaces in which students can move from study spaces to social spaces, from formal to informal learning styles, from interior to exterior areas, and into multi-purposed spaces able to host performance, exhibitions, collaborations and other events.
In terms of meeting what students actually want from a learning environment the architects, ThomsonAdsett, aimed ‘to provide choice, comfort, spaces that students actually want to be in, formality, informality, ease of connectivity and accessibility, varying degrees of acoustic control, retreat spaces and a strong association with key artworks, culture and the natural environment of in-between spaces.’
The volume under the building’s ‘shard’ provided the perfect setting for a space of a collaborative and experimental nature.
Various formal and informal spaces enable students to meet, learn, withdraw, share knowledge, take in oxygen, relax, be visible, valued, enjoy serendipitous encounters and access a myriad of support services.
The three level structure has a ground floor social learning space integrated with the external spaces; first floor seminar rooms and terraces that incorporate the concept of a learning ‘aviary’: a garden space framed by the building facades; and a ‘sky lounge’, a roof level flexible space that can be used for break-outs, more formal consultation or corporate events.
‘We have taken risks and created experimental spatial canvasses where students can express themselves. Students will utilise spaces differently at differing times of the academic year, they can lose themselves within the collection stack, attend a seminar, meet, greet, debate, recline, or occupy a quiet pocket of the library for a more intensive individual or group study.’
The building encourages use outside of term time and enables 24/7 use in part which is critical in light of the variable courses on offer and the number of students studying while maintaining other work commitments.
‘Flexibility,’ says Graham Legerton, who led the project for ThomsonAdsett, ‘is often too readily defined architecturally by an ability to move furniture and partitions. True flexibility is derived through choice. This project and the subsequent variations during construction continually strived to offer inherent choice and an enriched experience.
‘University libraries are no longer depositories with acoustic restrictions. Conceived correctly, libraries can be the epicentre of student centred education and diversity, ever changing and enriching campus life.’*
*Source: Journal of Interprofessional Care 2013; (27S2): 51-62

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