Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Autumn Term round-up

As we approached the end of 2016, we wanted to take the opportunity to update you on the various learning spaces projects under way.

Piazza Building stakeholder meeting

Last week representatives from the main Piazza Building contractor Interserve, Race Cottam Architects and various sub-contractors for mechanical and electrical works, heating, lighting and Building Management Systems (BMS) were brought together with University colleagues from Commercial Services, Information Services, Estates and Campus Services and academic departments.

Throughout the day we held workshops designed to build strong links between all external and internal parties, and work out how we can and will work together to ensure a successful programme of construction and fit out. We identified some key challenges - particularly that there is a lot of work to do in the short term!

This is the first time in recent years that so many teams have come together this early in the process to start identifying issues before they become problems further down the line. It’s fair to say that we all had varying priorities which we can now discuss honestly and openly.

During 2016 we will be consulting more widely with academic colleagues and students - including the new International Pathway College, Students’ Unions, Conferencing and current Heslington East-based departments - about the equipment and furniture to be installed in the seminar rooms and lecture theatre.

Spring Lane Building

Construction continues on the Spring Lane Building - visit our campus investment pages to see a new time-lapse video of the steelwork going up. We have a short workshop on chalk writing surfaces coming up later in the month! We’ll share more news and in-depth update in the New Year.

Focused estates investment

Unfortunately, following feedback and concerns about the knock-on effect on teaching, we have had to put the planned works in V/N044 and D/056 on hold. We will identify future opportunities to do the work and update you again in the New Year.

Can you help?

Have you seen some technology or furniture you would like to see in learning spaces here at York? Do you have a suggestion for improvements that we could make? As always, we would love to hear your thoughts - send your views to
Season’s greetings from everyone in Space Management - we look forward to working with you in 2016!

Steve Jackson

Learning Spaces Designer/Project Manager

Friday, 27 November 2015

Learning Spaces Roadshows – an update

We have now had three out of our four Learning Spaces Roadshows for this year, with one more to be held on Monday 30 November.

Listening to your feedback on current issues, heating in some learning spaces appears to be of concern and our Operations colleagues are working to address this. In addition to this a number of issues have been raised which could be ‘quick wins’ to fix, including broken floor boxes, squeaky doors and doors which slam (presumably because the closers are either broken or ineffective).  

Longer term, some lecture theatres are described as ‘uncomfortable’ in terms of the distance between writing surfaces and seating, flip table seating is universally unpopular both in lecture theatres and seminar rooms, and lighting in some rooms still appears to be an issue. We will be assessing the short term issues with a view to fixing what is possible over the Christmas break as well as assessing the other issues raised with a view to putting a longer term fix in place.

We have received lots of interest and feedback from staff and students on our proposals for the new Spring Lane Building on Heslington West and the Piazza Building on Heslington East. Some of this feedback includes discussion relating to teaching boards at the front of the new lecture theatre in Spring Lane Building and plenty of opinion on the seminar rooms and layouts, all of which will be taken on board and discussed at the next working group. Please keep this feedback coming as we want to create a space that is conducive to our students to learn in.

Coming soon to a seminar room near you?

Please come along to our final roadshow on Monday 30 November in LFA/144 to hear about the latest Spring Lane and Piazza Building news, try out some flexible seminar room/collaborative space furniture and cast your vote on the style of lecture theatre chair you find most comfortable.

As ever please send your feedback or comments to

Steve Jackson Learning Spaces Designer/Project Manager

Monday, 23 November 2015

Flexible learning spaces: how do we do it?

At the first Learning Spaces Roadshow, many of you repeated the need for learning spaces to be flexible.  

Most teaching sessions require a mix of different activities: listening to a lecture, having a discussion in break-out groups, working on a PC, undertaking an activity in a small group, etc. 

There are many different ways in which this can be achieved, including furniture, mobile or distributed screens, additional writing surfaces, good storage for bags and coats, and power to each seat.

Over the Christmas holiday we will be completely rebuilding D/056, a small lecture theatre adjacent to the JCR in Derwent College. This project gives you a great opportunity to tell us what you want to try out.

We’re really keen to test cluster seating. Cluster seating is made up out of booths that each accommodate three to four students, provide full-sized writing surfaces and has distributed power sockets. It encourages students to bring mobile devices, and encourages them to work and think together.

We think cluster seating could encourage active and collaborative learning, and we’re really keen to hear what you think. Should we try this? How would you use such furniture? What do you think the advantages may be? Tell us on or talk to us in person at one of our upcoming Learning Spaces Roadshow events:

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Making our mark on the Piazza Building

Last week we began the detailed design process for the Piazza Building, the new home for the International Pathway College which will also provide additional, high-quality learning spaces for many subjects - in particular the Management School, Law, TFTV and Computer Science.

You can find out more about the Piazza Building on our campus investment pages, and see the layout and initial design plans at the Learning Spaces Roadshow.

We’ll be tailoring the space for the subjects taking place within the building and bringing design lessons from the Spring Lane building group, including:

  • high quality teaching walls, enabling collaboration and creativity
  • plentiful and high-quality informal learning/study spaces within the building
  • good sight lines and angles in the lecture theatre and twin projection

The building will also house a large scale restaurant for staff and student residents and visitors - a perfect complement to the Heslington East campus!

Want to take a closer look at these plans and have your say? Make sure you come along to the next Learning Spaces Roadshow event this Thursday, from 2.00pm to 5.00pm in the Ron Cooke Hub Atrium.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Great feedback at the premiere of the Learning Spaces Roadshow

We had a fantastic turnout at the first Learning Spaces Roadshow event, and took away lots of useful feedback and actions to improve existing rooms on campus.

A few of the people I spoke to raised concerns about V/045 and D/L/028 Hendrix Hall lecture theatres. I'm currently investigating ways to improve the airflow and cooling in these theatres, and will report back when I've found out more.

We also received some really useful comments on the plans for the space refurbishments this Christmas, particularly around the conflict between designing flexible spaces that can be used for many different purposes vs providing a high quality learning space that is really good at what it is there to do.

For example, should D/056 feature fixed booth-style seating of a high quality, rather than moveable chairs with tablets laid out in rows? Let us know your thoughts!

The next session will take place from 2.00pm to 5.00pm on Thursday 19 November in the Ron Cooke Hub Atrium. We look forward to seeing you there!

If you’re not able to make it to an event, feel free to send your comments or feedback to

Matt Burton
Chair of the Spring Lane Building / Learning Spaces Working Group
Space Management
Estates and Campus Services

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Spring Lane Building: progress so far

Major ground works have taken place during the summer to prepare for connecting the building to the main heating and utilities supplies to campus. The foundations have been laid and the building steel structure is now arriving and taking shape.

Away from the construction site we have been busy considering a lot of the finer detail. The building project has both a steering group and working group to consult on and take key decisions, with members including faculty representation, library, space and Students’ Unions.  

As with most projects, we have undertaken a ‘value-engineering’ round to make sure we can deliver the project within the budget envelope allocated. This is not always easy, and we have had to find ways to downgrade certain infrastructure items, materials, etc. without compromising the vision and functionality of the building. However, we were also able to retain or push for important features to make sure the building is a high quality and accessible learning space, including internal glazing, digital signage, power socket provision, large teaching walls and high quality, full-height toilet cubicles.

We have also agreed on an open door policy, making the space free for anyone in the University community to walk in and use whenever it is not booked. We hope to use clever digital signage to show when the room is available.

The future of signage at York?

Your chance to shape the space

There are three key types of learning space that we are actively seeking community feedback on:

Lecture theatre

The building will include a 350-seat theatre, based on the required need for the teaching timetable and ancillary events. The dimensions of the theatre are fixed, and we’re proposing fixed benching as the writing surface (not flip-top chairs!) with power sockets along every row, but there is plenty of scope to explore different seating arrangements.

We are currently proposing two large projectors at the front of the theatre, angled to provide the best coverage for all members. With supporting technology, this allows for dual projection, eg a visualiser with other inputs in addition to presentation materials. Given the size of the projectors required and the space available at the front of the theatre, we are limited for board space so our proposal is to include writing boards at the front for mid-sized lecture use.

  • Are there theatres on campus that you feel are better than others? What makes them better
  • What technology do you think should be provided in lecture theatres?
  • Is two projectors correct? Would one suffice?
  • Should there be writing boards at the front of the theatre?

Seminar rooms

The new building will offer 26 seminar rooms, each with around 20 seats each and designed to allow sufficient capacity for a varied and flexible layout, eg boardroom, classroom or other configurations.  

  • What would you like to see in our new learning spaces?
  • Are there learning spaces you like on campus, elsewhere, meeting spaces in other industries or organisations?
  • Is power important to you to plug in? How often do you need to do this and how do you think we should provide this?

Informal learning zones

We have two larger informal learning spaces and various smaller spaces throughout the building that we will be developing over time. With about 1,000 people in the building during the changeover period between lessons, we need to provide enough space for people to comfortably move around, and provide breakout space for before, during or after formal learning.

A student using the study facilities in the Harry Fairhurst Building. Photo by John Houlihan

The specification of the informal spaces are led by Liz Waller, Deputy Director of Information who spearheaded the Harry Fairhurst Library extension.

  • What you think works in the Library and elsewhere?
  • What you would like to see more of in the Spring Lane Building?

Drop in and have your say!

Come along to one of our Learning Spaces Roadshow events this month for your chance to enjoy some food and drink, view the latest drawings and samples, and speak to staff involved in this and other projects.

Dates and locations

  • Wednesday 11 November, 1.00-4.00pm, LFA/144, Harry Fairhurst Building
  • Thursday 19 November, 2.00-5.00pm, Atrium, Ron Cooke Hub
  • Wednesday 25 November, 1.00-4.00pm, LFA/144, Harry Fairhurst Building
  • Monday 30 November, 1.00-3.00pm, LFA/144, Harry Fairhurst Building

If you can’t make any of these sessions in person, we would still love to hear from you. Email to let us know what you think!

Matt Burton
Chair of the Spring Lane Building / Learning Spaces Working Group
Space Management
Estates and Campus Services