ThinkSpace: How can the university library be designed to support new study patterns?

ThinkSpace: How can the university library be designed to support new study patterns?

How can reader space in the contemporary university library be designed to support contemporary multi-programme use? How can interior design help balance the tensions between focussed individual work and the social collaboration involved in peer-to-peer learning? How can we design flexibly, facilitating layouts for reader space and relating the individual study module or combined modules to the overall architecture?

ThinkSpace is a research project that examines the new demands on reader space facing the contemporary university library, proposing and modelling prototype design solutions to meet these challenges as an integral part of the research process.

The contemporary university library faces a number of challenges including: changing study patterns (24 hour access, peer-to-peer collaboration, higher utilisation rates); a shift away from print and towards digital dissemination (online databases, digitised books, copyleft and open access); and the ongoing proliferation of power-hungry digital devices (tablets, laptops, smartphones). These challenges occur at a time of constrained funding and higher student/‘customer’ expectation. As a result, the university library needs new, reconfigurable forms of reader space that can support multi-programme use at an affordable cost.

Traditional library interior design and furnishings do not meet these emerging requirements. Neither, however, do the new off-the-shelf solutions currently being offered by manufacturers which remain underdeveloped, space-inefficient and inflexible (frequently being derived from office-, rather than library-, specific precedents). Architects have designed bespoke solutions which can be effective but suffer from high costs, low levels of R&D, and a lack of scalability. Consequently there is a clear creative and commercial opportunity to rethink and redesign interior settings for the contemporary university library as a typology.

The research, led by Associate Suzi Winstanley, emerges out of, and runs in parallel to, the extension and refurbishment scheme for the University of Kent Templeman Library by Penoyre & Prasad which was used as a case study and test site for prototyping.

The project outcomes are a website, a prototype, a report and public talks.

University of the Arts – Chelsea- Open Lecture Series – December 2014
RIBA Trust Talk Series – October 2014

  • Penoyre & Prasad Research ThinkSpace Templeman prototype
  • Penoyre & Prasad Research ThinkSpace Templeman Student Observation