Observing Studio Usage

As the first phase of research for the BAAD Space project is drawing to a close – the students are presenting their findings on the analysis of studio usage in both the School of Architecture and Art & Design spaces. Some useful observations were made….

  • Flexible space, in principle is a nice idea. However, not at a cost to lose the key purpose of the space in the first place. There needs to be some degree of ‘designated’ spaces which clearly communicate what their intended use is for.
  • Decommissioning a certain part of the studio can be a useful strategy to allow students to informally occupy, and then subsequently begin to take ownership of the space.
  • The tutor often has a control of formality with the students when present in studio. Whether this is intentional or not, the tutor can dictate, and conversely, subvert how an area is used/arranged.
  • There is the question of an optimum size for an ‘informal’ working group. More observations are required to speculate on this more accurately. At the moment a size ranging between 4-7 students seems appropriate.
  • Furniture or partitioning is often designed to be flexible. Somethimes flexibility can turn to awkwardness because it means that furniture needs to be constantly moved to allow users to gain control of the space. Instead, a fixed layout allows users to alter their practice.
  • The notion of trespassing upon someone else’s territory is an issue. This includes another student’s work which has been left from a previous teaching session. Again, this awkwardness contributes as a barrier – preventing users to have total control of their space.
  • Linear or clusters? Desks, that is. Both have merits, but having the choice of sitting in either arrangement accommodates more student’s own way of working.
  • Cluster arrangements are good for generating discussion, but a lot of the surface area is not used. SOmetimes it feels you are forced to invade other people’s personal space. Linear arrangements provide a more isolated and focussed working area.
  • A diversity in the scale of spaces is key. Too many rooms of the same sizes is not conducive for personalised methods of working, and therefore experimental thinking.
  • In terms of work surfaces, a depth of a table is not as important but the edge space is. Increase the length of edge a student has allows them to use the surface a lot more effectively.
  • The working area should be considered in terms of total surface (floor + table + wall) rather than just tables. This just restricts a student’s perception that all they can produce in studio is work on a laptop. Using different types of work surfaces encourage more unconventional work in scale/medium  – like fine artists.
  • Studio space cannot be detached from the curriculum. Ie. if a groupwork assignment is scheduled for a certain length of time, then the studio arrangement should reflect this.
  • The studio dynamic can also be analysed in terms of spheres of influences. For example, in a tutorial, the tutor is a sphere of influence (the point of focus). Whereas in a review, it is perhaps a student (or their work). The sources of spheres can be inanimate objects as well as people.

This initial investigation period has been useful for evaluating the studio usage for both courses and we will begin to apply this information to develop a spatial strategy for the studio as well as creating a physical intervention within it.

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