Movement, wayfinding and colour for contemporary teaching spaces
A refurbishment at the University of Western Australia (UWA) showcases the versatility of carpet tiles, in particular, their use in creating free-flowing movement and bringing energy, life and colour to an educational environment.
The refurbishment project took place at M Block of the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre located in Perth. For two schools of the UWA Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, the brief was to create three interconnected e-learning suites and a wet laboratory.
The more specific brief was more complicated: the core part of the project was three E-learning Suites which could be linked in different configurations to create one large collaborative suite or be divided into smaller groups. All in all, the rooms needed to accommodate 174 students with three teaching stations and 29 collaboration ‘pods’, groupings of six student laptops, two built-in PCs and input from the lecturer’s computer.
Unlike traditional classrooms, there are no walls. Instructors move freely through the space to engage directly with students. Students move within the spaces to examine different topics and units, or say different sets of blood samples. But with freedom comes confusion… How can you encourage focused learning in an open space, and take chaos out of a crowd?
The solution was ingenious. Working with the design team from Perth-based John Flower Architect, Interface carpet tiles were used to both join and separate the spaces: “The flexibility of joining the suites was an integral component… we were keen for the rooms to look and feel like individual spaces when separated, whilst retaining coherence as a single space.” For colour inspiration, they wittily turned to the ‘RGB colour model’ of red, green and blue, typically used to display images on televisions and computers, here used as a playful allusion to technology while serving a practical purpose.
The designers used the Interface ‘Monochrome’ range to choose from a wide variety of bright colours and utilised the ‘Urban Retreat’ colour ‘Stone’ as a textural body tile. Then they created a carpet design forming a gradient of colour shades, allowing the three rooms to flow into one another, but also colour-coding each room to make them easily identifiable.
The result? Students know which room they need to be in through the colours in the carpet and can easily navigate around the red, green and blue rooms. But wait, there’s more. Working with the audiovisual whizzes at Pro AV Solutions WA, the team created a program where they overlaid a touch panel over a background of the red, green and blue carpet tiles. Staff use iPads to operate this location map, navigate the rooms, and even control the IT in the room.
We’re excited to see the use of carpet tiles to reflect changing pedagogies in teaching and learning, and how they’ve been used to create a contemporary, flexible and dynamic teaching space. We’d have to agree with technology specialist Derek Powell in his overall assessment of the innovative collaboration for this refurbishment: “The results are quite simply sublime.”