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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