The College has launched a unique collaborative space for students in the heart of the South Kensington campus.
The Student Space not only adds much needed group work and relaxation facilities for students but will also provide a case study in how regeneration projects can reuse and repurpose campus spaces in a sustainable manner.
The new facility spans the western half of the third floor of the Sherfield Building, an area that was previously reserved exclusively for staff. As hybrid working changes the demand for staff space, it offers an opportunity to ease pressure on congested study locations across departments and libraries.
In the summer of 2023, a plan was designed to transform the underused level 3 into a unique hybrid space, one that could support relaxation, collaboration, and study in equal measure. With its zoned layout, it seeks to provide a ‘third space’ for its users; whether students need a quiet corner for personal admin or a hub for group discussion, the Student Space is designed to be more than simply a study facility.
And with time and resource against them, the project team saw an opportunity to utilise the vast reserves of underused or unused furniture across the College, meticulously repurposing and upcycling equipment that would have otherwise been discarded. Desks with integrated monitors originally based in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering sit next to sofas that were previously found in the Junior Common Room. This doesn’t just give old furniture a new lease of life – it significantly reduces the carbon emissions that would have been embedded in new furniture.
“Thanks to the kind contributions of teams from across the College, we’ve been able to find new homes for – quite literally - tonnes of furniture that would have otherwise been overlooked and, ultimately, thrown away” said Fintan O’Connor, a member of the planning team.
“When it comes to these kinds of projects, there’s always the temptation to purchase new. But the patchwork of furniture we have in the Student Space proves how sustainable principles can inform project management in a way that benefits the student experience and minimises our environmental impact simultaneously.”
In his remarks at the launch of The Student Space, Professor Hugh Brady noted that in both its speed and prioritisation of sustainability, the space should serve as an exemplar for future projects of its kind.
From the outset of its development, the project team worked in tandem with the Imperial College Union to understand student priorities and how they may shape the final product. Speaking at its launch event, Camille Boutrolle, President of the Imperial College Union, highlighted the close collaboration between the College and Union in developing the space, noting that it was an testament to what can be delivered with a unified approach.
"We are immensely grateful to have been treated as the client, to have been involved at the earliest stage, and to have our priorities reflected in the implementation. Learnings from the Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship informed the design approach of the space and, in turn, we must take these lessons forward into future projects"
The Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship will be evaluating the contribution of the space to the Imperial’s wider educational environment.
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