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Just as tertiary education has become more interactive, so has the traditional concept of a library evolved to meet the changing learning environment

School of thought

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It's not just technology that has changed tertiary education. Students today are also much more likely to multi-task and collaborate on projects – a learning approach that strongly influenced the design of the new library facilities for the Waikato Institute of Technology in Hamilton.

Architect Tim Horne of Chow:Hill Architects says the student-centred design of the new Wintec Hub addresses the more social learning environment of modern polytechnics and universities. The building combines traditional library facilities with an information commons and social spaces that include casual seating areas and food kiosks.

"The Hub brings together all these learning support facilities, which were formerly spread out around the campus," Horne says. "It provides a real sense of community, and, as the name suggests, it is literally the heart of the institute – a place where students can come together to work and relax, almost like a home away from home."

Horne says Chow:Hill specified raw materials, such as steel, concrete and expanded metal, to reinforce the link to technology. Similarly, exposed wiring, ductwork and other services help maintain a visual connection with the institute's technology focus.

"We want students to experience the structure of the building. Exposing key structural elements helps achieve this, but we also wanted to ensure the environment was comfortable. The expanded metal ceiling, for example, gives the sense of a ceiling, but you can see through it to the core building services."

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Providing an open layout was also a key consideration, says Horne. As well as helping with passive surveillance, the open-plan design provides a visual transparency that enhances the community feel. For a similar reason, the mezzanine floor of the library features glazed study areas that are cantilevered over the information commons below.

"The acoustic design, by Marshall Day, incorporates large ceiling panels that ensure there are no noise issues," says Horne.

Bright yellow ceiling elements and a circular concrete staircase help to enliven key areas of the space.

For further information, contact Chow:Hill Architects, PO Box 19-208, Hamilton 3244, phone (07) 834 0348. Email: office@chowhill.co.nz, or visit the website:www.chowhill.co.nz .

First published date: 18 December 2007

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