Friday 14 March 2014

University of Loughborough’s Pilkington Library re-opens after Refurbishment

The Pilkington Library at Loughborough University has emerged smiling from a fast track building programme. It now has 1375 library seats, greatly improved facilities including a new reception and information desks as well as fully reconditioned WCs throughout. All this was accomplished in a three month building period during which the library was closed, but provided a comprehensive service in an alternative location. The secret of success in the process lies in several things:
  1. The comprehensive user briefing process that was able to take place at the start. AMA provided concept sketches and important design ideas. These were iteratively developed with the library staff  particularly to bring light and increased connectivity into the formerly gloomy building; 
  2. the decision to close the library so that the extensive work could be carried out enabling additional aspects of improvement to be added to the programme as they would not cause additional disruption;  
  3. the watchful eye, determined support and continuous communication with stakeholders provided by the Library staff, especially Brant Hickman, the Library Facilities Manager, who is more of a Chief Operating Officer rather than a FM. 

The briefing process, into which the Library staff had full input, was longer than the build process.  The project success supports the fact - widely acknowledged, though not always acted on - that good preparation pays off. Though the successful contractor offered a rather different layout initially, the Library used the AMA plans as their ‘base line’ and brought the project back in most respects to what they had agreed they wanted

Closing the entire library – the main one on campus - for three months was a bold action. This is never popular with students. However the alternative service provided was so excellent that there was not a single complaint throughout. This helped the project greatly by opening the way for much wider improvements than originally envisaged. These had originally focussed only on bringing the 4th floor into use for learning seats.  Instead, all 4 floors of the library have received an uplift, and all within the original time scale. This will avoid the need for future disruption to complete small but important additional projects throughout.

Brant and his colleagues had to return regularly to the building during the build process, to collect and return books from the storage zones, as part of the service to the students. This allowed them to engage with what was happening, to suggest improvements, prevent mistakes arising from misreading drawings and maintain good contact with the process so that they could keep stakeholders informed.

A more detailed article will follow. Meanwhile pictures can be accessed on the library's Flickr site here, and more about the project is available here.

Library interior, after the refurbishment
© University of Loughborough Library  
Library interior, after the refurbishment (same location as below)
© University of Loughborough Library 
Library interior, before the refurbishment
© University of Loughborough Library 
Library interior, before the refurbishment
© University of Loughborough Library

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Prince Edward visits AMA project

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, visited Robert Browning Primary School in Walworth on the occasion of his 50th birthday. The school has recently been refurbished and extended with AMA's help.

AMA’s involvement in this project was all-encompassing. Our aim was to make the most of the existing spaces on a compact, urban site and create new, flexible opportunities for learning, which involved the wholesale reconfiguration of the existing Victorian school building, construction of a new entrance, new nursery building and outdoor play areas. 

Through a series of major structural interventions, we sensitively altered the physical restrictions of the existing Victorian building, and provided a prominent new entrance that welcomes visitors, improves security and bolsters the school's identity in its community. The alterations transformed circulation areas into useful learning spaces while clustering the ground floor classrooms and toilet facilities to improve the building’s organisation and legibility.

Read more on the project here, and see pictures of the Earl's visit here.

Robert Browning School after the refurbishment
Picture © AMA 2013

Monday 3 March 2014

YES to physical universities in an age of MOOCs, distance and online learning

Do we still need physical universities in an age of distance learning and online courses? A unanimous yes is the answer according to the authors of a new book, The Physical University, published this month, edited by Paul Temple from the Institute of Education. They make the case that place-based universities are still essential even while virtual universities expand and flourish across the globe. Demand for all forms of learning is growing internationally as the world population expands and as higher education participation rates rise, even in the poorest countries. So there is still a vast and expanding need for face-to-face, virtual, and blended learning offerings. Place-based research environments where new knowledge develops are also increasing. It is there that the new ideas taught by future teachers are generated.

Alexi Marmot's illuminating chapter "Managing the Campus" demonstrates how the student experience and university effectiveness are influenced by the design and management of the estate. This is essential reading for all those interested in university space, pedagogy, teaching and learning, estate management and design.

Details about the book are available here.

University of Oxford, Trinity College
© Creative Commons licence

 Illinois Institute of Technology, Crown Hall, by Mies van der Rohe
© Creative Commons licence

Adsetts Learning Centre reviewed positively by students

Sheffield Hallam University’s recently refrubished Adsetts Learning Centre, which was redesigned by AMA, has been received very positively by students. In the 2013 National Student Survey, 89% of SHU’s students praised the library and its resources. One student commented that 'it's just great in the learning centre. It's a place you really want to study in - as soon as you walk in you're in the mindset to work, in a really comfortable environment', while another thought that ‘the facilities are really good, particularly the learning centre. I find it really easy to concentrate there’.

AMA worked closely with the SHU learning centre team to rethink how their award winning library building could be transformed to meet the needs of today’s students, address the rapidly changing work and teaching patterns in the future, and provide a bright and welcoming environment. Effective and rational panning allowed the retention of the same number of books and the number of study places was increased by 10% and each of these also had a larger footprint. The building is open 24/7, and was fully occupied during the refurbishment, which was carried out in the quietest time in 3 phases over 3 summers to minimise disruption.

Adsetts Learning Centre. Photo © AMA 2012