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Sparks fly at Southampton Solent

UB editor Rebecca Paddick visits The Spark, a £33m teaching and learning building aimed at encouraging creative, interactive and flexible learning

Posted by Julian Owen | October 23, 2017 | Facilities

Since featuring the artist impression of The Pod on the front cover of UB all the way back in February 2016 I’ve been meaning to get to Southampton to see the teaching, learning and conference space in action.

Spread over five stories, The Spark boasts 40 teaching spaces – 35 classrooms and five lecture rooms – providing a combined teaching capacity of 1,500 at any one time.

Looking to break learners out of a traditional ‘receiver of knowledge’ mentality and getting them engaged through active questioning and thinking, it’s the only teaching building in the sector with such a large proportion of ‘agile’ furniture – designed to promote creativity, independent thinking and individual ways of learning.

As well as classrooms, lecture theatres and conference rooms, The Spark has a selection of social spaces to encourage collaborative learning and relaxation.

Over the past year, the space has also been used for a number of exhibitions, conferences, training sessions and social functions. Businesses and community groups have benefited from the building’s flexible facilities. In addition to the Pod and semi-public atrium which is available for events – from trade shows to fashion shows, art exhibitions to networking events – The Spark also features two large flexible suites, a bookable business centre and a new VIP dining area.

The Spark building features:

 - 2,900 m2 of glass

 - 390m2 of solar panels helps fuel the venue 

 - The Pod sits 11 metres high

 - The Harvard-style lecture theatre offers immersive presentation facilities

 - The video wall features 12 40” screens  

 - The VIP Whitebeam dining room can transform into a dancefloor and bar

On my visit I was lucky enough to be invited to the Arabian Nights-themed evening, hosted by the Solent conference team themselves. The teaching and learning space was transformed into a colourful ‘Arabian mirage’ featuring a Middle Eastern-themed bazar with food stalls, sweet treats and Moroccan teas. 

“We’re now one of the key players on the south coast, and one of the biggest venues outside of London,” said Marc Goodman, Business Development Manager, Catering and retail services, Southampton Solent University. 

“We were delighted that we were nominated for ‘Best UK Conference Venue’ at the 2017 Conference & Incentive Travel Awards, celebrating the venue’s recent surge in recognition among industry competitors. This was a great compliment for our venue and its dedicated team in its first year of operation. 

 “We have organised events of all kinds including product launches for tech giants, wedding receptions, academic conferences, Christmas parties, award ceremonies and fashion shows; hosting nearly 1,400 events, with both a commercial and academic focus, in total in our first year of operation.” 

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