Creating a library and learning space to appeal to all
Set in the heart of a former coal mining town in the South Wales Valleys, Abertillery Comprehensive School is one of 40 schools chosen to be part of the Welsh Assembly’s Schools Challenge Cymru initiative, a multi-million pound programme of improvements designed to increase performance in schools across Wales.
"The whole project from the design stage right through to the installation has been faultless."
With funding secured from the programme to refurbish the school library, the project went to a competitive tender, which was won by education interiors specialists Innova Design Group.
Charged with the design, manufacture and installation of furniture for the new library, Innova’s proposal offered a truly transformative design for Abertillery: a 21st century education environment enabling students to develop their skills as independent learners, addressing Schools Challenge Cymru’s aim of delivering swift and positive improvements for pupils.
Based on the ‘learning commons’ model where space is shared for individual study, online education, reading and group work, Innova’s design aimed to sweep away pupil perceptions of an unwelcoming, old fashioned space, replacing it with a school library that promoted literature and learning and engaged with all pupils, especially less skilled readers and reluctant library users.
The physical environment is key to the learning commons ethos, offering users layouts, furniture and physical organisation which can be reconfigured according to their requirements. Unlike the silent ‘reading room’ atmosphere and solitary study of the traditional library, these new learning spaces bring students together to work, study, and socialise in an environment which supports and encourages them to take responsibility for their work and learn independently.
To facilitate group work, collaborative projects and individual study within one space, Innova designed, manufactured and installed a range of furniture which met the school’s brief to create an environment which was colourful, non-traditional, and above all inviting.
Fixed wall shelving and vibrant, curved mobile island shelving units were used to showcase reading materials and create subtle zones. Smaller mobile shelving units and book display units were installed to promote the latest must read books, perfect for ‘impulse’ loans.
Poseur benches and flexible, reconfigurable tables were fitted to provide a more relaxed space to encourage independent and social learning. The installation of strategically placed plasma screens in these areas allows students to work together on mobile devices and tablets and to cast their projects up onto the screen for discussion and analysis. Soft colourful modular seating and flexible stools and desk chairs were chosen to allow students to read, discuss and study in a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere.
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