Work Experience Placement

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Last week Mhairi Goldsbrough joined us for a week-long work experience placement from Gryffe High School in Houston. Mhairi was asked to respond to a brief where she was required to produce concept sheets and sketches for a student-focused Study Club and Café. We think Mhairi did a great job and we’re currently munching our way through the giant box of sweets she kindly left us. Thank you Mhairi!


 

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Case Study: GCU Flowers and Lace

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LaceFence screen with an Iris Foetidissima handwoven pattern

A new academic year is underway, and the finishing touches have been added to Glasgow Caledonian University’s Heart of Campus project. Over the summer period, the remaining elements of the Restaurant and Study Club spaces were installed, and we are pleased to see how well they work now that the students have returned and the campus is fully occupied.

If you have followed the story of the Heart of Campus on our blog or website, you will know that we opened up the entire ground floor area of the George Moore Building which created a blank canvas for the main restaurant space. Some bold design decisions were made for this space, including the huge installation of a timber slatted ceiling, a central wash-up space designed to resemble a boulder and some intricate lace fence screens which have only just been fully installed.

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6-panel sliding screens with Dicentra or Lamprocapnos spectabilis

Opening up the space created an opportunity to populate the floorplate with a range of islands generating different types of spaces for different activities. The main walkways are highlighted in different materials and bespoke fitted furniture is used to define the perimeters of these islands. Some spaces are relatively open and can cater to groups of different sizes; others are more intimate and suitable for study or informal meetings.

To emphasise the delineations, we proposed a series of screens, some of which are formed as an extrusion of the timber slatted ceiling above. To provide a contrast to the timber we sought a complementary screening solution that would reflect the landscaped courtyards that flank the restaurant, and in doing so, form a connection between the external and internal spaces on campus. Churchman Landscape Architects based their designs for the courtyards around the 19th-century discoveries of the ‘Scottish Plant Hunters’. In consultation with Chris Churchman; key plants, flowers and trees were identified as starting points for the screens.

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LaceFence screen with Pseudotsuga Menziesii (douglas fir cones)

LaceFence / De Makers Van are a design company with bases in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The material they produce is constructed from standard chain-link fencing material that transcends its usual industrial aesthetic with the addition of hand woven patterns that are incorporated into the linkage. Standard patterns are available, but we opted to supply LaceFence with images of the plants and flowers from the Plant Hunters concept. Once LaceFence had converted the images into patterns, the screens were then fabricated by hand at their facility in India.

It took a little work to convince our clients of the suitability of this hitherto industrial product. However, once students involved in our collaborative design meetings saw the material their enthusiasm proved compelling.  We are delighted with the final result and believe that the restaurant is another facility which sets GCU apart as one of the most innovative and design aware Universities in the UK.

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4-panel sliding screens with Dicentra or Lamprocapnos spectabilis alba

 

The Grass is Always Greener

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Millikan Laboratory and Andrew Science Hall, Pomona College, California, USA By EHDD Architecture

For years now, in every campus we have visited we have watched students sitting on the steps of buildings chatting, reading books or improvising impromptu study spaces on lawns. It’s no surprise to see this really as most people enjoy reading a book, meeting with friends or having a coffee outdoors and without wishing to get too long winded there is a great deal of research and theory regarding our connection to the natural world and the de-stressing effect this has on us.

We are always being challenged by our clients to think about new types of spaces that would significantly improve the student experience, and for several years we have been exploring the notion of outdoor learning spaces. Many students we have spoken to have highlighted how sheltered outdoor areas would ideally allow them to read, write, have meetings and group discussions, or even hold informal lectures and tutorials outdoors, creating a functional and not just aesthetically pleasing campus.

Although we often recommended the concept of outdoor learning to universities, few are willing to take such a bold step, and we think that this is a lost opportunity. The continuing expansion of universities across the UK is putting pressure on existing learning space. Whether indoors or outdoors, space is a valuable asset on university campuses and outdoor learning environments could provide a new and exciting opportunity. Moreover, the drive for increased cross-departmental collaboration seen recently in Higher Education could be aided by making these common spaces inhabitable, turning the whole campus into a learning landscape where people from all backgrounds can meet either by design or by accident and share ideas. Our research has also shown that there is a clear link between the design of campuses, their buildings and facilities, and student and staff recruitment and satisfaction. Such innovative spaces would almost certainly give universities a competitive edge.

Our team have been actively researching outdoor learning spaces for some time now, and as part of our tenth-anniversary celebrations, we will be creating the blueprints for a range of experimental spaces. Our ideas range from more formal, sheltered study spaces, to considered and informal landscaping that creates environments where students can take ownership and make the space their own. During our research phase we unearthed some great examples of outdoor spaces some of which have been designed specifically for learning, and some which we think could inspire future outdoor learning environments and we thought we would share these with you. We would love to hear any ideas that you might have on this topic or any successes or failures that you might have come across.

 

Nomad Gets Meta

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Over the past ten years, Nomad has carried out many diverse and wide-ranging research projects into the types of spaces, places and people that make up educational institutions up and down the country. Although every educational establishment is unique, offering their subject specialism and expertise, their own identities, communities, and culture, we are aware that there are strong commonalities that exist between them. Uncovering these commonalities can help to show what are the most important themes that keep recurring from institution to institution.

As a design studio which places research at the heart of our process, we felt there was no better way of uncovering these themes than to carry out a research project into our research projects. (…how much more meta can you get?!) This meta-analysis will look at ten projects of our over the past six years to draw out the overarching themes which tie these projects together.

Through such a self-reflective process we hope to reveal design principles that will not only help to guide future projects but will inform and improve the range of services that we provide. We carried out a similar process back in 2011 which has proved valuable in providing solid evidence-based information as a foundation for our projects.  Now after a decade of research, we have amassed a wealth of information that provides a unique insight into the design of educational spaces.

It’s fascinating – if not a little nostalgic – to be going over our projects again and we look forward to sharing the outcome.

Nomad’s Turning 10!

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It’s already been an extremely eventful year here at Nomad, and we’re only halfway through! To make this year even more memorable, October 2016 marks our 10th Birthday. It’s been a whole decade since we became a registered company way back in 2006, and what a wonderful 10 years it has been. We’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most respected and forward-thinking educational and healthcare institutions in the country, developing many friendships and relationships along the way. We’ve got some fantastic ideas in the pipeline for how we’ll celebrate this landmark year and we will update you with more information in the near future.

Alongside celebration, such a pivotal point provides a great opportunity for reflection. Over the years we have carried out many diverse projects and have amassed a large amount of research data into spaces and, most importantly, how people use these spaces. To mark 10 years we will be looking back over these projects to conduct our own research, providing a meta-analysis that draws out the overarching themes which have been raised again and again. In spite of this, we promise not to get too metaphysical on our birthday.

Keep an eye out for more info. We look forward to celebrating with you soon.

Project win: De Montfort University

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We are very excited to announce our most recent commission for De Montfort University. The University has a range of library and learning spaces that have been developed over time to meet the demands of evolving student requirements. Now they wish to shape a vision for the future development of their learning spaces and have appointed Nomad to help them shape this vision by engaging with their staff and students. Our research team will be working with the Library and Learning Services to engage with stakeholders to better understand the modern expectations of the service and its associated physical spaces. Combined with critically evaluating their existing accommodation to look at options for inspirational learning resources.

We will be planning the project over the summer months, and the actual engagement should begin when the students and staff return for the start of the new term. The project is due for completion in Feb 2017.

University Business UWL & KCL Write up.

 

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Many thanks to Steve Wright and University Business for the fantastic write up of our projects at University of West London and Kings College London. Both projects were a joy to work on and they could not have been more different so they kept us on our toes for a good few months.  They also shared extremely positive responses from their students and it was great to see all the excited tweets etc about the new spaces.  If you would like to read the article which, also features The Fry Building at University of Bristol designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, Click this link

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