Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Spring Lane Building furniture procurement exercise

As mentioned in previous posts, the Learning Spaces Working Group is passionate about transforming the learning spaces we have on campus - and making a huge wave in this effort through the introduction of the Spring Lane Building.

I often see that furniture is often one of the last elements to a) be decided upon for a building and b) arrive at a building and but also c) be an easy option to cut when money starts running short.

We have a commitment from the Steering Group that both a) and c) will not happen.

As a working group, we have spent a long time exploring what makes a good learning space. Often it is easier to say what doesn't, or what you didn't enjoy. We also received great feedback through the Autumn Term Learning Spaces Roadshows and the direct feedback canvassed for the D/056 and V/044 full refurbishment consultation.

Our Spring Lane learning spaces, in particular the seminar rooms, will be the new generation of size and dimension (applying our new Space Norms). Already the early visitors to the spaces believe they feel ‘large’. Well, without anything in them they are big empty boxes, but, they’re our empty boxes and purpose designed. The furniture will be too.

We have a limited budget but are determined to get the best out of it. After many months of discussion the working group generated the following brief for the procurement exercise. We hope you agree (but if not, please do reply so we keep track of this feedback):

The building and fit out should:

  • Be high quality and durable
  • Use inspirational design: not institutional or corporate and avoid the traditional (price-driven) table and chairs that are usually bought
  • Be esigned for/fit for purpose first, over considerations of flexibility (movement) of furniture
  • Encourage people movement rather than furniture movement and thus reduce both time lost in-session and on-going facilities costs
  • Fit with the building’s overall natural feel - including the walnut of the doors

We should avoid these features:

  • Flip-top chairs
  • Plastic backed (non-upholstered) - mesh may be suitable subject to testing
  • Centre pivot flip tables
  • All the same (even on one floor)

Seminar rooms should:

  • Seat (min) 20 people comfortably that allows the whole group to converse together, without any backs to the ‘front’ of the room
  • Allow free and easy movement around the room by both student and tutor - eg not have a cluster within a cluster
  • Aim to be progressive as far as possible. It is suggested we may pitch for:
    • Ground floor ‘traditional’ with more ease of furniture movement - with a view to supporting non-teaching activity eg conferencing or other events we may run
    • Middle floor ‘traditional/progressive’  - may be harder to re-arrange furniture, but not impossible
    • Top floor ‘progressive’ - fixed furniture design, does what is advertised
  • Demonstrate larger capacities without compromising the above
  • Where possible, integrate the AV console into the design, so the tutor is part of the discussion in addition to the ability for stand-up presentation
  • Where possible, offer integrated power solutions and safely tether to the provided power in the room

Experimental learning spaces

Further to the main seminar rooms, the three learning spaces above the lecture theatre are our opportunity to support new learning styles. We welcome truly creative opportunities that embrace technology - for example, interactive workshop space with technology enabled group working.  For these the capacity should be around 30 student.

Social learning spaces

The Deputy Director of Information is leading this area of the design - utilising the recent years of developments in the Library, and success therein, to build on.

The furniture tender is now live and we will be engaging with the successful company over the next few months, including open sessions, to select the products that will define York learning spaces and your experience. Your feedback will be invaluable in this process.


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