Every minute of our lives takes place in a space of one sort or another, one might even say that this is true before birth and after death but lets not go there.
What I find intriguing is that we often ignore and neglect these spaces, often not appreciating the significance the space we find ourselves in is having upon our behaviour and interaction both with the space itself and others we may be sharing the space with.
Today I was reading a book sitting on a circular bench under a tree in dappled sunlight located at a busy pedestrian cross roads on campus. There was lots of movement, noise, smells, different languages being spoken, colour, nature etc. I was thinking about Bill Ashby's comment that space is a total sensory experience and then wondered if my cognitive behaviour would be different if I was in a badly lit office tucked away in the far corner of a crumbling building. The answer for me, and I suspect most of the rest of humankind, is yes. I am not prepared to conjecture if it would be better or worse but I think it would most definitely be different. Perhaps the psychologists out there would comment.
We require all sorts of spaces, think about going on vacation, this is very much about the space we visit. Some like museums and galleries, others like mountains and beaches, some like crowds others like solitude etc.
My conclusion, in the context of learning spaces, is that there is no such thing as a one size fits all, a trap we often fall into. There is also often a tendency to design to the lowest common denominator. Designers need to consider and satisfy the wide range of needs to be met by those that will be occupying the spaces being designed. We may get a lecture theatre right for the student but not for the lecturer, a 24 7 student centre good for studying but hopeless for meeting. There are usually compromises to be made but the design process needs to establish what is required overall prior to any compromise being made.
What do others think?
I am currently listening to a very noisy freshers party about 200 mts from my apartment. I hope that they have the right space to enjoy their party (sounds like it). On the other hand I doubt that many of them care by now. The joy of youth.