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Brighton awarded for top learning space

A state-of-the-art redesign of learning spaces at the University of Brighton has won a top national award

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | April 21, 2015 | Facilities

The social and informal learning space (SILS) project draws on the university's learning and teaching research through its Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning through Design (CETLD). 

Conceived by recent graduates from Interior Architecture and built on close partnership working between the university's Estates and Facilities Department and Professor Anne Boddington, former CETLD Director, the overarching SILS project, sought to analyse and re-purpose spaces across the university's five campuses such that they might be more effectively utilised to support student and staff communities by providing conducive intimate spaces within which to meet, to learn and to socialise. 

The overarching programme identified many small opportunities to distinguish and enhance the university's environment through creative modest transformations designed with the local users of the buildings, both students and staff. 

The flagship prototype space, in the Watts Building on the University's Moulsecoomb campus in Lewes Road, Brighton, collected the inaugural Association of University Directors of Estates' Impact Award at a gala evening held at Stirling Castle in Scotland. 

The award, designed to highlight exceptional achievements of universities and those who work in them, recognised the considerable impact made by innovative design developed by two recent graduates, Carly West and Tom Munson working with Project Manager Steven Jones. 

The project was noted for the significant contribution it has made to combining spaces and brokering new working relationships between departments as well as creating a transformative and social heart to the building by offering a well-designed inexpensive and contemporary space that has not only provided new facilities, informal seating and new areas for group work, studying, networking and socialising; a student-facing, student-run enquiry service; improved IT provision, display screens and enhanced Wi-Fi internet access; as well as a 'grab and go' café facility for snacks and hot and cold refreshments. 

Opened in 2013, the Watts space, the first of a series of designs across the university, has had a notable impact on the social environment. The Director of Estate and Facilities Management, Mike Clark and the design team attended the awards ceremony and conference at Stirling University. 

Following the event Professor Boddington said: "I am truly delighted to see the team's work recognised with this award, which demonstrates the value of good design and its significant impact in creating a responsive brief through listening and responding creatively to local user needs. It has created a distinctive sense of place that is inspiring, conducive to shared learning, welcoming for conversations and as somewhere to relax." 

Mike Clark, the University's Director of Estate and Facilities Management, said: "This is the first of a series of projects to support how we use all our spaces, inside and out, in new ways such that we can reflect in built form the distinctive experience of being a member of the university's learning community."

The £600,000 project was drawn from the university's 'Invest to Gain' initiative to enhance premises and facilities across all five of its campuses in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings.  For more information visit the SILS project website. 

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