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Future-proof Lecture Theatre Design

According to research led by the London School of Economics (LSE) Estates Division and the Higher Education Design Quality Forum (HEDQF), out of 1,000 students in the UK, 76% ranked campus facilities as either ‘quite’ or ‘very’ important.

The role of the university campus is changing in subtle and important ways. Today, student ‘timescapes’ typically involve moving between places to work, study, sleep, eat, and play, and the boundaries between these places are now less distinct as wireless networks, laptops, smartphones, and iPads afford greater flexibility and mobility.

Students want to be mentored in an environment where they can advance quickly, and they want to have the tools to win. Generation Z is judging universities by their environments and facilities.

In an article for the New York Times, ‘The Innovation Campus: Building Better Ideas’, architecture and design critic, Alexandra Lange, finds that ‘Where once the campus amenities arms race was waged over luxury dorms and recreation facilities, now colleges and universities are building deluxe structures for the generation of wonderful ideas’.

2017 research by the BCFA (British Contract Furnishing Association) identified that the greatest factor driving investment in universities is the demand for higher specification learning facilities.

It isn’t always feasible to fund a ‘from scratch’ building project, however careful research and clever design can maximise teaching space on a campus, creating space for more collaborative activities outside of timetabled teaching as well as providing room for performance, staff meetings and conferencing.

Enhanced Learning: Improved Outcomes

Universities are looking to future-proof their learning spaces, designing teaching environments that will be able to adapt to the pace of change and imbuing structures with the adaptability to enable subsequent phases of redevelopment or repurposing.

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A large room typically used for instruction, lecture theatres differ from that of the traditional classroom or other learning spaces. The lecture theatre design is based on that of the auditorium, designed for an audience and performer relationship, providing spectators with excellent visibility of the main stage or platform. Most lecture theatres are installed with tiered seating, enabling those sitting right at the back to be able to see what is happening at the front.

Flexible learning environments are shown to increase engagement, improve grades and enhance student participation. Students also seem happier and able to have more invigorating conversations.

Julie Lecoq, a workplace consultant for the global design firm HOK advises ‘Simple changes to existing spaces can go a long way to transforming them into more creative, inspiring environments.’

Why Lecture Theatre Design Is Important

The design of a lecture theatre has a significant influence on the learning experience, it should be optimised for creating an environment which stimulates concentration and interaction and improves learning outcomes.

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A badly designed lecture theatre does the opposite of encouraging learning, causing even the most attentive of students to lose focus during the lecture. Obviously, the quality of the audio-visual material itself is important, but this is of no benefit unless the theatre stimulates absorption.

Lecture theatre design must incorporate a number of features in order to provide optimum studying conditions.

Key Design Considerations

Visibility/Sightlines

This is vital to the success of any lecture theatre, every member of the audience should be able to see clearly at all times with an unobstructed sight line, they should also be physically close enough to be able to recognise the facial expression of the person(s) presenting. The success of any lecture or presentation largely depends on the relationship of the audience to the performer

Lecture Theatre Seating

The distribution of seating is paramount to audience participation and interactive learning, including how seats relate to each other, as well as the position of the lecturer. Lecture theatre seating is usually arranged in sloping tiers so that spectators can see over the heads of those in front.

The use of tiered seating arrangements dates back as far as the ancient Greeks and is the most common form of seating in auditoriums and stadiums. Seats are often curved at an angle allowing spectators to view the stage as well as each other. By providing rows of seats which rotate 360°, students are able to participate more easily in interactive learning, facilitating group work and collaborative study.

The seats themselves should provide adequate legroom and be comfortable to sit on for long periods, sitting on an uncomfortable seat causes the occupant to focus on his or her discomfort rather than the lecture at hand – comfort correlates productivity.

From Turn & LearnTM and Harvard Style to Collaborative Hub seating, Ferco Seating embraces innovation and challenge assumptions in design to deliver greater space utilisation across a campus.

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Lecture Theatre solutions are broad, ranging from traditional lecture seating with fixed writing tablets, right up to cutting-edge auditorium seating that can be utilised in flagship lecture theatres where additional revenue from out of term conferencing is required.

>> Lecture Theatre Seating Collection

Desk Space

Spectators must not only feel comfortable in their seats, but be able to write easily without being cramped and restricted. There are many different types of writing tablets available on the market, the patented A3 Wrimatic integrated writing tablet however, is suitable for both left and right-handed users, allowing users to increase and maximise their learning potential.

>> Wrimatic Tablet

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Natural Illumination

Natural lighting increases productivity and comfort levels for occupants in any space. Unfortunately, designers often exclude the use of natural light as it can cause other problems such as heat, glare and distraction.

Acoustics

Any room with poor acoustics will hinder comprehension and ultimately concentration levels. Many lecture halls, especially the larger ones are noisy – sound bounces off hard surfaces causing echoes forcing the brain to strain more in order to understand the sound. Most modern lecture theatre design incorporates acoustic panelling.

Ventilation

All large rooms and buildings intended for gatherings will need careful design for ventilation, air change rate and air conditioning. Regulations stipulate that each occupant must be supplied with a minimum quantity of fresh air per second.

Sitting in an overly warm and stuffy lecture theatre will stimulate tiredness rather than concentration as the audience will unlikely to be able to concentrate.

Integrated Technology

The lecture theatre combines audiovisual equipment to deliver and stimulate students on a visual and intellectual level.

The use of audiovisual technology facilitates engagement and communication within lecture theatres due to the ability to control visual imagery and sound simultaneously for the purpose of the presentation that is to be communicated.

Other Points

Wheelchair access, fire protection and easy access to fire escapes are also all essential to the planning of lecture theatre design.

Ferco is able to design learning spaces which incorporate Designated Disabled Access spaces, which can incorporate fixed desking or Wrimatic Tablets.

A Sense of Partnership

Get in touch with Ferco Seating today to discuss the design of your lecture theatre seating.

We offer a one-stop solution for all fixed seating requirements, working with architects from their initial design stages by providing practical support in the form of drawings and dimension, to the manufacturing and installation – attending site visits and meetings.

>> Book a Consultation 

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