Monday, 28 February 2011

Personal Development Plan Whilst in Melbourne

Yesterday, Sunday, I had a familiarization day of the campus and the city centre. Lots to see here. The central library was truly amazing, I will get some pics.

Today Peter explained the structure of my time here. I have received a structured induction about what projects are going on and others that are complete which I will be visiting.

Peter has prepared a reading list, I will be starting with ' The Language of Space' by Bryan Lawson.
I will be carrying out critiques on selected spaces, attending workshops and project meetings at the university and at other establishments that Peter is involved with.

 I visited 3 spaces today.
One nearing completion is a 30 seat learning space converted from a tiered lecture theatreTalking to the project manger from the contractor I discovered that the ceiling material was to be changed from strips of MDF to aluminium because of warping. The lesson here is to be sure that  the building material will give the desired effect.  ( pic below).

 Another was previously an open plan area that has been converted into 3 teaching spaces to help cope with the shortage of learning spaces. This was interesting as the tables, the plectrum shaped ones some are familiar with, were being used well during a group discussion session within the lecture. However two of the tables which were designed to be higher than the others were about 200mm too high and in the wrong position which had an impact on circulation with in the room. This reminded me of the problem we all experience of cramming too much into a given area to maximize bums on seats although this was not the actual problem here just badly positioned tables. The space experience should be about quality not quantity although I understand the pressure we are under to provide more with less!

Later I attended a book launch where I was introduced to the  VC and the Dean of Architecture and  met Clare Newtown of the Faculty of Architecture whom I first met at a U21 design forum in Virginia in 2009. I will be meeting Clare again to discuss the impact of technology and it's impact on learning  spaces, in particular asking 'can technology have a negative impact in the use of space?' I know that many will have opinions on this point.


  1. Hi Nigel, interesting picture, what is the primary function of the aluminium strips on the ceiling; aesthetic or sound baffling? any chance you can get the specifications for the contruction of the plectrum tables? I have had some made but with metal frames trather than the central core as our manufacturers are saying that there are issues with stability!!

  2. Glad to hear you have arrived there safely following your holiday Nigel. I look forward to reading your postings and following your learning path vicariously. Cheers

  3. While not a "learning space" in the pure academic sense, I was in correspondence with Nigel today about a collaborative student space that we just opened at UVA. I shared some photos with him and while viewing the photos of the Melbourne learning space he posted on his blog today, I was struck by the similarity in the design palette. Our space at UVA is a "Media Activities Center" where student publications are created and it is also open for general walk-in use by students. We had a ceiling challenge to manage as well, we built our center in unfinished "found" space on the basement level of the building. We decided to leave the ceiling exposed and paint it white. The ceiling fixtures reflect off the white ceiling to create more light than one would expect to find in a basement-level space. Because it's reflected light, it's relatively soft. Having an exposed basement level ceiling offers constant visual and auditory stimulation, there's a lot to see and unexpected sounds to hear in the space. It all provides a very urban feel, which is unexpected and unique at UVA. The response to the aesthetic has been mixed as you might expect on a campus with a very conservative and traditional architecture. Students love the space because it is unexpected, and it has already created many conversations about possibilities, very important in a space like this intended to foster creativity. Desiging this space has reinforced that it is critical to create student spaces that stimulate all of their senses...we all take for granted that learning space design is not a two-dimensional exercise, but even to suggest it's merely a three-dimensional exercise sells the process short. Light, sound, smell, moisture and the virtual experience that technology can offer must all be considered and accounted for early in the process. It is the total sensory experience that stimulates our minds to think in new ways...

  4. Hi Nigel, sounds all good mate, yes please get plenty shots of the library, especially study spaces and IT facilities and any group study space. I am working on a major project here with the Library, Peter met David last year and gave some early input into it. It's a 2 year 2 phase project so any shots you take will be of interest.

    Enjoy :-)


  5. Bill I agree entirely that 'It is the total sensory experience that stimulates our minds to think in new ways...' This is what I was proposing at the U21 UVA event and we built upon when we were in Dublin. This is one of the things that came out of a workshop that I attended today and will blog latter.
    Your space looks very interesting. Can you give more details of the technology in use please?
    Are the green chairs very comfortable as well as functional?
    This is exactly what came out of a workshop that I attended today and will blog latter.
    I am posting a couple of your pics for others to see what you have done.

  6. Nigel: any chance you'll be able to get up to Brisbane? Happy to host you while you're 'here'. All the best

  7. Hi Phil
    I trust you are well.
    Thanks for your offer. As it happens I am in Brisbane Monday and have arranged to meet with Derek Powell. Of course it would be great to meet you also. I will get back to you with my schedule. I may also have some time on Tuesday.



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