Thursday, 30 June 2016

Spring Lane Building - furniture update

On Tuesday 28 June, a delegation from the Learning Spaces Working Group took a day out of the diaries to travel to sunny* Macclesfield, to be hosted by Broadstock Office Furniture, the successful tenderers for the Spring Lane Building.

We spent a number of hours trying out lots of samples of chairs, collaborative furniture and the bespoke seminar room table we have had designed for the building.

*not so sunny

Seminar chairs

We are ordering almost 500 of these chairs, so as a working group we were committed to selecting the correct chair the fit the brief we had produced: putting comfort and durability first.

After testing a number of chairs, the group settled on a version of the Torsion Air chair (pictured below), without castors (we hate castors!) and with a fabric to match the colour palette of the building. These were by far the most comfortable chair, a very comfortable mesh back (which surprised us - we were looking for upholstered) and they have some movement in the back which worked really well.  To top things off they carry a 12 year guarantee!

The chair frames will be black, with a black mesh back and fabric seat base.

We have a number of other learning spaces upgrades this summer and we will aim to use the same seminar chair, as far as appropriate, in these spaces too.

Seminar tables

We have had a bespoke table made for the seminar rooms - with solid wooden legs (which match the trim colour of the seminar room doors) and a walnut top (to match the main room doors). They look mighty fine, if we do say so ourselves!  Good job we tested these out though - the beam under the table needs a minor adjustment to be completely clear of tall people’s knees!

One of the great things about these tables, we feel, is that they take on board the feedback we have received from users of our whole estate. Specifically they are solid and do not pivot in the middle. They are not on wheels. The frame design is such that you can sit at any of the four sides of the table and fit underneath without hitting a leg (or support beam now!)

We’re also putting in a couple of low-level benches in each room too, on the inside of the horseshoe, so that classes can move about without moving the chairs - allowing a large group to breakout at different points in the session.

Professor John Robinson, Lee Woodall (Broadstock), Ruth Hale and Thomas Ron consider the the chosen ‘Torsion Air’. You can see the table and matching bench in the background.

Agile/Experimental spaces

Broadstock presented the Working Group with four samples to work with (pictures to follow):
  1. A small raked lecture room that can break into collaborative mode, moving people (not furniture).  So the front row is standard table height and chair, progressively increasing in height until the back row is ‘poser’ height.
  2. A workshop layout, with 5-6 ‘plectrum’ tables that we may technology-enable.  This would work for a true collaborative layout although would not comfortably function for a round-table discussion.  Frames would be white to match the tables.
  3. A casual seminar room - using soft seating in a teardrop / horse-shoe, with a selection of writing surfaces but more ‘lounge’ like.

The working group are recommending we proceed with 3 x experimental / agile seminar layouts and 23, high quality boardroom seminars.  This will be decided by the Steering Group next Monday.  We will look to replace furniture elsewhere on campus if/as/when new furniture layouts/styles are required to fit with the new York Pedagogy roll-out.

Informal Learning spaces

Thankfully for the group, Liz Waller, Deputy Director of Information Services had taken a day last week to visit ahead of the working group delegation, creating detailed plans for the main flexible learning spaces with a blend of:
  • Informal group/lounge furniture
  • Individual workspaces (tables and chairs)
  • Individual lounge chairs
  • Print/copy area fit out

Utilising the similar furniture, a number of smaller touch-down areas exist in the building and will follow the same format.

During the visit, the delegation decided to recommend that the ‘Reception’ area of the building be deferred until the main central stairs were installed, to see how the building feels in that area first.


Colour scheme

Everyone’s favourite topic!

The Spring Lane Building has an autumnal theme of mellow yellow, burnt orange, tree green, red and grey. Broadstock presented a number of palette swatches and the delegation supported the closest matching palette, as previously outlined in the design intent document for the building and agreed by the working group.

Thanks to Liz, John Robinson, John Maddison, Jeanne Nuechterlein, Geoff Krauss, Sarah Bacsich, Ruth Hale and YUSU officer Thomas Ron for taking time for the visit. And to colleagues Lee and Wendy at Broadstock for hosting us.

We’re excited that the building is really coming together now. The furniture is due to arrive in early September, with plenty of time to spare before the first use early October. We can't wait for you to see it!