The news that City will be getting some swivel seating in the newly designed basement lecture theatre is certainly highly encouraging for learning development at City, and for the student experience. The standard auditorium design has changed very little at most institutions over at least a couple of decades, with rows of seats facing front. It has not kept pace with rapid changes in teaching and learning styles: primarily a much more interactive approach, where students are encouraged to break into groups, often switching between the lecturer and group work with fellow students.
World class learning institutions now understand that the physical space provided for teachers and learners is a fundamental learning asset. Their experience is that successful learning space design is not based on templated solutions, but rather a menu of different styles and solutions, and swivel seating is certainly part of that menu.
There are some additional exciting and innovative seating designs presently being pioneered in Universities.
For example in a recent article in The Financial Times, Clare Dowdy reports on an innovative design for Lecture Theatre seating at Loughborough University School of Design. They have commissioned architects Burwell Deakins to design the new School of Design building and as part of that the architects have produced a proprietary design of a new form of collaborative seating for the lecture theatre. Called “Connect Lecture Seating”.
Instead of long rows of benches and tables, these are short bench units to seat 3 students, with a 15 degree angle towards one end for a fourth student. This allows a group of 4 to easily switch between the lecturer and collaborative group work. It can also be used for group work outside of lectures. The slightly extra space it takes up, rather than long rows, is balanced by not needing additional breakout space. The cost is £1,200 for a unit that seats 4 students.
It is perhaps significant that the need for lecture theatre space design to get up to speed with contemporary learning, is of interest to The Financial Times, who are very aware of the changing market for world-ranked higher education