Utilising transitional spaces in university environments

By Mandy Leeming, Design and Development Manager for Interface EMEA

Whether we are talking about a building’s entrance, or the walkways between activity zones in an open-plan environment, an effective transitional space can be described as a circulatory route. Whether located between indoor and outdoor environments or between different zones within a space, they act as a buffer and a physical link between individual areas. 

Thanks to the trend for more open-plan learning environments, transitional spaces are becoming a key design fixture in UK universities. Large, open spaces are increasingly being divided into defined activity zones that give students the option to spend time in task-specific areas, such as spaces for quiet solo work, group study sessions or socialising between lectures.

Transitional spaces can help to define the boundaries between zones to ensure what is occurring in one doesn’t impinge on another. Using careful design techniques, walkways and communal areas in such environments can guide students to specific zones, changing their mood and signalling movement from one place to another. In doing so, they give students choice and control over their environment to help them make the most of their studies. During the design stage, it is important to consider lighting and colour, both of which can evoke varied human emotions. Crucially, flooring should be taken into account as well, as a fundamental tool to define transitional spaces, both visually and texturally. 

A good example of such transitional spaces at work is in the University of Bristol’s new learning hub. The open-plan building’s study spaces have been designed to provide a variety of learning environments, from quiet study to bookable meeting rooms and social areas, as well as a café and welcome area for visitors. Through the use of colourways and textures, clear zones were created, with Interface’s Net Effect skinny plank tiles in the blue Atlantic colourway specified for the study areas. 

University of Bristol

To create a distinction between these quiet zones and the breakout space a walkway was developed using three different shades (Atlantic, Black Sea and Caspian) from the same collection, laid in a herringbone formation to create visual interest.

Another simple design technique to achieve transitional spaces is using a combination of hard and soft flooring. Interface’s Level Set™ luxury vinyl tile (LVT) collection, for example, is designed to integrate and fit seamlessly with Interface carpet tiles without the need for transition strips. This helps delineate the transition between one area and another, and can create rich textural experiences across a space. The tiles within the range evoke a host of distressed reclaimed and exposed natural woods and stone, and can be used to give each zone within the space its own unique identity. 

Taking advantage of such solutions, it is possible to design transitional spaces that are not only functional and beautiful, but actively support students’ learning as well, catering to their evolving needs throughout the day, and encouraging them to refocus their minds to prepare for the learning activity ahead. 

To find out more about Interface’s Level Set™ LVT collection, visit: www.interface.com. 

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