International Business

A few weeks ago, myself and colleagues from the University of Manchester Library toured the Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) redevelopment construction site. The Eddie Davies Library was located in the former AMBS building but closed temporarily to allow the redevelopment to start.

We will soon be closing the Precinct Library and relocating it to the newly redeveloped AMBS building, along with the Finance Zone (which is currently in a temporary location). I believe the new Eddie Davies Library will be our most conceptually advanced facility and I will cover this in more detail in a future blog post.

At this stage, it is worth mentioning that we recently received the sad news that Eddie Davies, Chair of the AMBS Advisory Board and generous supporter of the Eddie Davies Library, recently passed away. This is a sad time for the Library and for our colleagues in AMBS, and our thoughts are with his wife and his family. We will ensure we involve them when we mark the re-opening of the Eddie Davies Library in 2019.

During the Innovative Learning Spaces Summit 2018 I had the chance to visit the newly refurbished Universität Pompeu Fabra (UPF) Barcelona School of Management with my colleague Jorge García de la Cámara.

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Arriving at the Universität Pompeu Fabra (UPF) Barcelona School of Management

The school is based in a traditional Barcelona block building, which comprises traditional elements from the mid 19th century right through to refurbished areas from the 1970s.

On entering the building, I was impressed by the use of compressed card that had been used as panelling around the central area of the reception. The card was incredibly strong yet flexible (creating smooth, curved edges) whilst providing great acoustic insulation.

Jorge wanted to walk us through the most recent refurbishment of the building, which aims to provide an adaptable learning space for students and facilitators alike. We travelled up a number of floors, arriving at the space, which had great wayfinding signage to indicate the floor levels (ideas that I would like to try in one of our own library sites).

The learning space was difficult to describe on first sight. It felt like a breakout space in a modern office crossed with the playfulness of an arts studio. All the seating and tables are moveable and can change shape to suit the people using them.

All the walls in the space serve a purpose and acoustic panels can be moved to reveal storage and exhibition spaces, whilst retaining their insulative properties. Light fittings are hidden behind the panels but provide comfortable lighting against the walls.

The precast concrete block design of the ceiling would usually be covered by some type of soffit or ceiling mounted tile system. However the design team used this feature to great effect by running strip lighting (which was individually controllable) along the right angles of the block work.

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Interesting lighting installation on the original ceiling structure

The ground floor collaborative study and meeting space is a triumph in providing adaptable spaces for learning. A large, open area with glass walls, the space can be broken up into different sizes and shapes by way of moveable screens. Portable power points can be wheeled to wherever people are sitting and the glass screen down the centre of the space is completely soundproof. The ability to see discussions and learning taking place (whether consciously or subconsciously) is something we should all consider, a design feature that was used in the construction of many British schools in the 19th century.

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Glass walls that allow learning to be visible by all

Adaptability of spaces in the building continued to a ground floor meeting room that Jorge showed us. The room is beautiful in its design yet bucks the trend of many standard meetings rooms we may be used to. The triangular shape, lower ground location, discrete lighting and flexible window blinds make for a fantastic environment, whether for small presentations, meetings or collaborative learning.

One of my four space trends is Transform, whereby people will expect a space to be easily locatable and configurable to meet their preferences, by way of e.g. retractable walls and personal light and heat settings. What Jorge and their team have achieved through the refurbishment of UPF Barcelona School of Management shows that learning spaces can be designed in a way that they can be transformed to meet the needs of the users. We are starting to sketch plans for the refurbishment of a former book store area in our own Main Library. This will be another step forward in the evolution of our academic library, which has seen many changes during it’s 82 year history. Our vision is to take advantage of the original construction features and create an adaptable learning space for students wishing to study and collaborate, fostering innovation and knowledge exchange. I will be writing a blog post on this project in due course, but if you have created adaptable learning spaces in your own organisations, I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve done and the successes you’ve had.

Thank you for reading.

Mike Kelly
Library Space Development Manager

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