Client Interviews – Kings College London, Anne-Marie Canning | Director of Widening Participation

Ann Marie Canning is the Director of Social Mobility and Student Success at King’s College London and our client for the experimental teaching and learning space located in Somerset House. The space has been in use for just over a year now, and Ann Marie has been keeping a close eye on how it is functioning. Here is what she told us about the learning space we designed with her.

  1. Tell us about the background of your project?

King’s College London had plans to establish an outreach Learning Centre in the basement of Somerset House for a number of years. In my role leading widening participation, I was asked to make progress on bringing the Learning Centre into reality!

  1. What were your hopes and dreams at the outset

I always dreamed of walking through the Learning Centre and seeing different activities bustling away in each room. This happens on a daily basis – when I walk around I see community groups, revision sessions, debating, 121 coaching. A whole range of activities helping young people and co-located together. It’s a dream come true and inspires me every time I walk through the space.

  1. What were the high and the low points of the process?

A low point was seeing the state of the space prior to works. It was flooded and dark and had rats scarpering around. It was hard to imagine we could turn it into something magical for young people. A high was the launch of the space – there were times when I lost faith that we’d get to the finish line. It was a real moment.

  1. Which part of the project makes you proudest?

Thousands of young people from our local community get to enjoy dedicated top-class facilities at our university. It’s beautiful when they first walk in and gaze around at the space in awe! This term we ran a ‘favourite campus spot’ activity and the Learning Centre was nominated by lots of undergraduates at King’s. It’s a sanctuary for learning.

  1. Where do you feel your project is most innovative?

I love the dynamic between the terra incognita corridors and the mind-themed rooms. Each room is named after a brain function (our IOPPN colleagues advised) and the space works around that. The learning textures are great for trying out new forms of teaching practice. And the space stimulates beautiful conversation between children – especially the unicorn on the windows!

  1. What kind of reaction did you get to the completed project?

The space is in high demand – everyone wants a piece of the Learning Centre. Students love the different rooms and themes and are really happy to move things around and make the space work for them. I have a collection of photos of people using the space in different ways.

  1. If you had to do it again, would you do anything differently?

Our upcycled furniture would be less 80s!

  1. Are there any anecdotes or stories that stick out in your memory?

The space is underground– making it great for the odd leaving party as noise doesn’t travel!

 

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Client Interviews. Glasgow Caledonian University – Douglas Little Head of Estates

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As a reflective practice, we often revisit projects to review them in operation. Recently we have been asking our clients to take part in a quick questionnaire to find out how they feel about the places we have created and we will be featuring these mini-interviews over the coming months. The first interview is with Douglas Little, Head of Estates at Glasgow Caledonian University and the man who led the construction of the Heart of Campus Project for the University – this is what he had to say,

 

1. Tell us about the background of your project? 

In 2016 , work was completed on the flagship Heart of Campus project, a £32 million investment in the Student Experience which has changed the face of the Estate and has introduced inspiring new teaching spaces and social areas. The two-year redevelopment which centred on two of the University’s main buildings –The George Moore and Hamish Wood-has increased learning and teaching provision and added a host of exciting new elements.

Outdoors, three new courtyard gardens with fluid and organic designs bring colour to the campus and offer space for reflection and engagement.

2. What were your hopes and dreams at the outset?

To transform a 60s/70s ”college look university” into a modern university with inspiring places you would want to come to!

3. What were the high and the low points of the process?

Having to break it down into phases was the low point as you just wanted to get the work underway.  The highpoints were when you opened up the phases one by one.  This was a magical moment for all to see!

4. Which part of the project makes you proudest?

The complete Heart of Campus project but the best part is the Student eating area with the large connection stretching down George Moore into Saltire.

5. Where do you feel your project is most innovative?

Creating interesting spaces out of space that you would not think possible!

6. What kind of reaction did you get to the completed project?

Not one negative comment so that says it all

7. If you had to do it again, would you do anything differently?

Shout out to everyone the successes at each handover phase and celebrate each accordingly.

8. Are there any anecdotes or stories that stick out in your memory?

Plenty stories but you will have to wait until my book comes out!

 

Model Making

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The fabrication of maquettes, models, and prototypes is, and always has been, an integral part of our design and development process. Clients and stakeholders often have different levels of spatial perception and their ability to interpret plans and drawings can sometimes create confusion or fail to convey a full picture of the proposed solution.

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Employing models to describe objects and interior spaces allows the client to easily read and understand the designs presented. Various iterations of a design can be easily compared and measured, and the client can provide valuable feedback with the confidence that they have a firm grasp of the options in front of them.

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Recently, working with a client in Germany, we have produced far more models than is usual. The financial institution, based in Frankfurt wanted to investigate various ways to improve their workspaces. Following a series of workshops, we developed a number of solutions for the key areas highlighted in the research and consultation. The workshop participants were drawn from departments across the institution and each had brought a distinct set of values and requirements to the process.

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Using models and maquettes to illustrate the proposed solutions enabled the stakeholders to understand how the various elements could work together and provided them with clear, tactile examples of how their particular requirements could be addressed, developed and satisfied.

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Prototyping Workshop Outputs

More pictures from our German workplace project.

These pictures are from our prototyping workshop where models based upon participants ideas were presented and critiqued. This included models for innovative indoor products such as phone booths, individual workspace ‘cubics’, ‘hangouts’ and shelters along with outdoor pavilions and street furniture. The baubles are conceptual representations of participants landscaping ideas for different buildings in Frankfurt and are fragranced to represent a custom ‘scent-scapes’ for each place described in participants specifications.

The workshops developed for this project are entirely bespoke and have gradually built upon each other to reach this prototyping stage. The project has pushed our team to create some of our most innovative, fun and effective workshop activities to date and has resulted in an unexpected number of solid concepts ranging from simple communication suggestions through to architectural interventions.

The prototype models were received with great enthusiasm by all, and we are now looking forward to seeing some of these ideas come to life over the next 12 months or so.

Latest Research & Consultation

Since Spring this year we have been travelling back and forth to Germany where we have been working with a highly confidential client carrying out innovative consultation with their staff. Although, sadly we are unable to reveal much about the project we do have some photographs of some of our workshop materials that we wanted to share. This exciting project which examines the workplace setting of a major European institution is due to conclude in the Autumn of this year when all will be revealed.

  

Mayday!

 

 

MayDay!
The month of May and the sun is here, and every year we try to alert clients who want to undertake a consultation or research project in the new academic years starting in September that now is the optimum time to make a start. The best time to launch a creative consultation project is in the first term, not immediately as people are still finding their feet but approximately one month in when everyone is full of enthusiasm and not yet distracted by Christmas!

It may seem strange as students will be thinking of exams and holidays, as will many staff but the summer months are the ideal time to undertake the detailed planning that a really good consultation project needs and will leave the academic year clear for consultation events and activity. Although each project is different, our approach usually involves several methods from pop-up stalls where our researchers carry out soft interviews and mapping events to creative workshops and experience sampling, and each takes time to design and strategise. On average a well-run project takes between 2-3 months to plan in detail and launch. Of course, this is not to say that it can’t be done a little closer to term or at other times of the academic year, but we usually advise everyone to try to take advantage of the summer weeks ahead.

If you are planning a creative consultation project in the new term, we would love to hear about it in the comments. Alternatively, if you are considering a project in the new academic year and need any advice or recommendations just let us know at info@nomad-rdc.com

Project win: Nomad in Europe

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We are very excited to be working with a major commercial institution in Europe where we have been commissioned to design and run a bespoke consultation project with their staff aimed at generating a number of creative workplace solutions.  The institution, whom we are not permitted to name for security reasons, has three properties in Frankfurt where they have recently completed a Leesman Survey to assess their workplaces.  We will be exploring the issues flagged up in the survey with the staff with a view to creating a strategic range of recommendations and solutions.  The first stage of consultation is due to commence in early April, and our entire team will be involved with the project at different stages.