Setting the stage

Recently I was a guest at another university overseas, and while there I was shown one of their new buildings. The key thing about this building is that while it had fixed outer walls that made up the rectangular box shape of the building, inside the box absolutely nothing was fixed. My hosts explained to me with some pride that between one semester and another they could completely change the internal configuration. So right then it had three floors, and there were two large lecture theaters and two smaller ones, and a number of offices and labs and an atrium, they said they could ‘easily’ change that to four floors, no theaters, a number of seminar rooms, and open plan offices. And then a few months later change it all back again, without having to bring in any builders.

It reminded me immediately of a theatre stage, on which the scene could be changed within a minute or two to meet the needs of the narrative.

So is the era of the permanent fixtures in higher education buildings over? Is the scene of pedagogy changing so regularly that we need to be able to re-model the stage regularly? Perhaps it is, and perhaps this is something we should welcome; or at least be open to.

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5 Comments on “Setting the stage”

  1. jodyfrost1 Says:

    How interesting! And what a curious reflection of the times we live in when everything is so …. impermanent…. ? But of course, everything is… impermanent isn’t it? ;-)))

  2. Vince Says:

    I can see how it could be useful. But would not you need a airship hanger to store the unused stuff.
    All an’ all, I suspect that this might suit the tactical goals of the place for the moment but I also suspect that it’s a logistical nightmare and will require an entire corp of sappers to service the notion.

    • Jilly Says:

      I agree with Vincent – it sounds great in many ways, but must have cost a fortune to design and build, and must also require a lot of managing, which would also be expensive. I doubt many places could afford it, sadly!

  3. Al Says:

    A wonderful idea
    but its hardly science labs that can be altered?
    can you link it up here?

  4. bethduff Says:

    Certainly one form of future proofing!

    Having gone back to do PhD part time some 30 years after first graduating, it’s the changes in the library that have struck me most – and not just that I use it more these days! With all the search facilities available to me, I can get almost all I need via my laptop wherever and whenever I want – and from many different libraries too. Large library buildings would seem to be a thing of the past.

    I’ve also been brushing up in stats via on-line lectures from California and I’m sure there will be more on-line teaching too in future and perhaps less need for traditional lecture theatres.

    The modular building described could easily be laid out such that it could be let out to other users too if, as seems likely, the university will need less physical space in future.

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