Thursday, 29 December 2016

Piazza Episode 5 - Return of the Comfy Seating

No building would be complete without an atrium, and the Piazza building is no exception. The ground floor of the atrium area is going to house a 350-seat servery, with areas on the first and second floor earmarked for touch down spaces for use between lectures.

As a placeholder, these areas have been configured with relaxed seating and coffee tables, however we’ll be looking at alternative layouts in the new year. These might include booth seating, which is great for group working and allows us to make good laptop power provision, or might be based around relaxed seating but with higher, more laptop friendly, tables instead.

If you have any thoughts on what you’d like to see, please let us know via the usual e-mail address ( so that we can take them into account when we start looking at furniture options along with flooring, colours and other finishes over the next few months.


Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Piazza Episode 4 - The Flat Floor Awakens

Hopefully the subject of a guest blog in the new year, one of the ‘behind the scenes’ activities in Space Management is the modelling of space requirements for teaching.

With the inclusion of a new lecture theatre in the Piazza Building we’re able to look at using other Campus East rooms such as LMB/030+31 as two rooms rather than one - which in turn frees up one of the new spaces in the Piazza building.

Rather than equipping that space for lectures, which would create a flat-floored lecture room for a maximum of 100 (though, significantly less with high quality writing surfaces), we’ve been looking at setting it up as a space for student societies, exhibitions and other uses instead.

We’d still include the infrastructure for a lecture space (power for projectors, somewhere to connect a lectern, etc) but have removed the floor box that would have fed a lectern so that we can provide the most solid floor space possible. To that end, we’ll also be looking at fitting the room with a solid floor rather than carpet, so that groups like dance societies can make best use of it. And with that in mind, we’ll still plan to install some speakers so that users of the room can plug in a laptop or phone for music.

Of all of the spaces in the new building, this is one of the most exciting as we have the possibility to do something a bit different to address non-teaching needs in the University community, so if you have a use for this kind of space please do get in touch with us ( if what we’re planning would suit your needs or if there's something else that you’d like us to consider adding!


Thursday, 22 December 2016

Piazza Episode 3 - The Empire Lights Back

The new Piazza Building will include a large lecture theatre with about 350 seats, although we’ll be discussing exactly which seats to use in the new year (as ever, suggestions welcome via The tablet chairs as shown below are only indicative - there will be a writing bench similar to our other high quality theatres.

At this month’s Working Group, we discussed power provision (a socket per every three or four seats, similar to Spring Lane) and technology provision.

The height adjustable lectern that we introduced in Spring Lane has been well received, so will be repeated. However, we’ll be moving it away from the seats a little, so that it sits about halfway between them and the projection screens. We’ll also be shrinking the lectern from the three metres wide in Spring Lane to closer to two metres in Piazza to help make sure that there’ll still be plenty of free space at the front of the theatre.

We’ll be pairing the lectern with another video flipchart table which, like in Spring Lane, will allow the use of the projection screens (two, about the same size as Spring Lane) instead of traditional whiteboards.  Working seamlessly with lecture capture, as well as providing more virtual writing space than we’d have been able to fit had we used traditional column boards, the video flipchat has received overwhelmingly positive feedback so far - though we will be looking at making it a little more presentable in its next incarnation!

As well as taking the best bits of our recent builds and refurbishments, we’re always looking for ways to improve our spaces. One of the things we’re looking at for the Piazza Building is the lecture theatre lighting. As well as the standard strip lights that we find in lecture theatre across campus, we’d like to include some more focused lighting towards the front of the theatre. This will help to create a ‘performance space’ at the front of the theatre, as well as making the projections look better and simultaneously making the speaker is easier to see.

Speaking of performance spaces, next time will be a look at a potential societies space within the Piazza Building.


Monday, 19 December 2016

Piazza Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones

The majority of space in the Piazza Building is made up of seminar rooms - over 30 in total - which will seat about 20 people in a horseshoe setup similar to that used in the Spring Lane Building. The success of the Spring Lane Building provides a great blueprint for the planning for the Piazza Building.

Inspiration from the Spring Lane Building

The continuing use of ‘desk style’ teaching positions as part of the horseshoe setup has been popular, so will be continued. The ‘windows’ to the interior of the building have also been well received - students being able to spot empty rooms and make use of them has been mentioned repeatedly in feedback, and the Spring Lane Building’s heavy usage (already among the heaviest on campus!) owes significantly to them so they’ll be repeated and enlarged in the new building.

One of the lessons learned from the Spring Lane Building has been that power provision for laptops is important in seminar rooms, as students might have a couple of 2-3 hour seminars in a day, with no chance to recharge laptops in between. Originally, the Piazza seminar rooms had been designed with ample plug sockets - in some cases, enough for one per person. However, having considered concerns relating to trailing cables, Helen and I have been tasked with investigating furniture with integrated power, which will allow a socket at every seat. Should it be successful, it will be something that we can look at retrofitting elsewhere in our learning estate.

Turning to the technology, our recommendation that we explore wireless presentation receivers was well received. Hopefully a subject of their own article in the new year, inclusion of these in each room would free the lecturer to deliver from anywhere in the room as well as facilitating the use of touchscreen laptops or tablets to enable a more interactive style of teaching. We’ll also be looking to include a digital OHP in every room, as well as Replay functionality (watch this space for articles on those subjects too!) throughout.

Next, a look at the 350-seat lecture theatre.


Thursday, 15 December 2016

Piazza Episode 1 - A New Hope

At this week’s Learning Spaces Working Group, Helen Stephenson (Estates Project Manager) and I presented our first round of recommendations for the Piazza Building - a new teaching and catering building due to come into use for Spring Term 2018.

Artist's impression of the Piazza Building's position on Campus East

Situated on the University’s Campus East site near the Ron Cooke Hub, between Langwith College and the lake, it’s our first big opportunity since teaching buildings were first constructed on the East Campus to review space needs and respond to six years - nearly seven and a half by the time it’s live - of exciting growth and development of the departments based there, plus provide a new home base for our up and coming International Pathway College.

Having looked at those space needs, and the space that we expect to need for the next few years, the building will include:
  • a lecture theatre, to seat approximately 350
  • over 30 seminar rooms, each seating approximately 20
  • a catering space, to seat about 350, with full commercial kitchen
  • various circulation areas, set up to support study or group work between timetabled sessions
  • a flat-floored space, which could be used as a 100 seat lecture theatre but we’re hoping to leave available for student lead activities.
All of which I’ll be taking a closer look at in a series of posts leading through to the new year.

Learning Spaces Installations & Project Manager