Learning spaces are important and should be planned carefully and in detail, regardless of the size of project or budget.
Develop your brief
Be aspirational and have high expectations of how learning should be positioned, both physically and intellectually within your organisation. Funders are interested in projects which set the bar high.
We strongly recommend that you map out what a typical ‘day in the life’ of your learning space will consist of, including weekends and holidays, and create a ‘visit walk through’ considering all the activities of a group, including arrival, travelling through the site including cloakroom, lunchroom and toilets, and leaving. These two documents will help shape your brief and better inform your architect or other stakeholders about your needs.
Think about who is going to use the space and try to think through a visit to work out exactly what will work and what you will need. Ask yourself as many questions as you can. For example:
- If a group comes in, where will they put their coats and bags? Even if they are just bringing their lunch for later, it is surprising how many will bring large rucksacks which take up a lot of space
- If you are going to show original objects or documents, how will you manage when the room is filled with an entire class?
- Where will you keep materials for a workshop during a visit, making sure you can access them quickly and easily?
- What are the routes like in and out of the room to the different tables? Any bottlenecks?
- When children put their coats on to leave, it is difficult to get them not to bunch together in the coat area; do you have enough space there?
- If you have a whiteboard to write on, can everyone see it from where they will be sitting?
- Do you have enough storage?
- What is access to toilets like? Will you be able to accommodate toilet trips during a workshop?
- What about when children have to eat their snack (morning classes always seem to need a snack)? Will there be issues with food waste near objects/documents?
- And lastly, when planning for space capacity, don’t forget about the adults that come with the children! A space can hold 33 children but will it hold the four, five or even six adults that accompany them? Do you have seats for the adults?
Sarah Chapman, Learning & Outreach Officer, University of Aberdeen