Importance of interior design without the gimics
A few years ago we co-authored a SLA (School Library Association) Guidelines publication called ‘Beyond Beanbags – Designing Inspirational Secondary School Library Spaces’. At the time we were only thinking of terms of education space but then beanbags started drifting into office interiors led, of course, by Google, with ‘chillout zones’ complete with bean bags, table tennis tables, slides and drink trolleys.
Beanbags still serve a purpose, particularly in primary schools, as they provide a lounging opportunity that kids love and they can add a pop of colour to any interior. But perhaps they have reached peak appeal for education interiors where productivity and heads down learning take priority.
When we are designing college and university interiors we use space planning, colour and furnishings to blur the boundaries between office and learning environments. There is no doubt that main driver for investment in HE interiors continues to be increased competition and innovative interior design can make all the difference. So HE interiors are becoming much more design led and this is helped by the evolution in furniture design – beanbags are now less of a novelty.
Talking to The independent on workplace environment, Ceri Davis, associate director of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris architects, believes the ideal office environment is to have a balance between ‘me-space’ (quiet solitude) and we-space (lively collaboration) “with the ability to follow between such spaces spontaneously”.
Our experience shows that it’s important to achieve that same balance when designing further and higher education spaces. It’s important to balance areas and pods that create spaces to allow students to either work together or alone. At the same time making the space intuitive so there is no need for multiple signposting and where they can flow seamlessly between different areas.
So the focus has moved away from novelty to creating interiors that improve pedagogy, create a sense of calm and make everyone happy!
HE design really is pushing the boundaries giving students experiences like no other.