The Art of Eight Spaces

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Arnaud JUHEL As it is right now, the library is an open space with book shelves scattered across the whole space which provides semi-private spaces for working alone or in groups. Occasionally read a book or a magazine. The library as it is today can get very noisy, for several reasons; first, there are no real walls to keep the noise from conversations from spreading to the whole space. When the background noise becomes louder, other groups around need to raise their voices to keep discussing, thus bringing the noise even higher; the second reason it gets noisy is that business students in general have no respect for what a library is and what it represents. A library is a place for studying and enriching the mind with knowledge. It is a place of silence and concentration.

At least it should be. In its busiest hours, our school library as it is today resembles more the pit of the New York Stock Exchange than a study space. People barge in the library shouting, cracking jokes, laughing out loud, talking as loud as they have to in order for their colleagues to hear them. I see two solutions to this problem, one is to educate all the students to what a library is and what is has to look and sound like; the second solution is to come up with a new design that solves the problem for in its core, the design prevents the noise from spreading. I favor the second solution for business students are savages and mostly couldn’t care less about what a library is for. They just need an internet-connected space to do group-work, which this school is so fond of.  The paradox today is that the ESC Pau has all the students constantly work in groups but there is no decent space, big enough to fit all the students without the place becoming louder than an open market.

My inspiration for this project comes from the millenniums-old Chinese concept of Feng Shui, which is the art of organizing a space in a way that enhances the life and work of people living or working in that space. In the art of Feng Shui, the space is divided in eight spaces, and each space is dedicated to a specific aspect of one’s life, such as work, family, health, fame, relationships, knowledge, etc. Although the concept itself has been greatly developed over the centuries and can go into great complexity for each aspect, for the purpose of redesigning the school’s library, I will just keep the idea of having different spaces for different purposes. At the core of Feng Shui and of my project is the idea of balance. In my case, it is the balance between noise-generating group-works and the need for silence for individual studying.

The main constraint in this project is the available ground surface. The available space is a constraint because the space being small (around 150 m²), there are not a lot of options to separate the groups far away from each other to prevent noise. My idea is to create round-shaped areas where groups can gather and work. These circles will have transparent curved sliding doors (like Japanese doors) that can partly close the space and thus prevent the noise from spreading. Each circle would be separated from the others by two shelves separated by a walking space. The shelves would serve as a noise buffer zone between two groups. Not only does this idea allows groups to have privacy and silence to work, but each group would be isolated from the others with book shelves, which would also render the books available to students by simply going to the different idles situated between the working circles. Each area will have a certain human capacity, let’s assume 6 people, so each area will have to have 6 electricity plugs for PCs, as well as increased Wi-Fi bandwidth in the entire library.

Now each circle would be dedicated to a specific subject related to management and business: economics, financials, strategy, marketing and branding, entrepreneurship, brainstorming, personal writing, etc. Each of these areas would have a specific design, colors, pictures, would be decorated in relation to its theme, thus providing students with mind-stimulating environment to work in. For example, the economics area could have its walls covered with the portraits of famous economists, famous quotes from the economics literature, etc. The brainstorming area could have choke board-like walls covered with life-maps, as well as a real board for students to write and brainstorm on for idea-generating. As a way to get students to comment on the library’s design, a Twitter account would be created with a dedicated hashtag at which students would post comment and thoughts. Not only would that give the library an entire new face, it would also bring a new dynamic in the place. Ideally, a suggestions hashtag would exist as well, where students could express their recommendations. The librarian would be in charge of collecting these and make use of them.

Finally, one of these areas would be the total silence area, which would be slightly larger than the other ones, which would be an area not for groups but for individual people who wish to work alone in silence (except for the typing on computer, of course allowed).

These work areas would use 60% of the total space, the rest would be dedicated to a computer area with all the computers that are already in the library today. They would be put on the opposite side of the work areas and separated with vivid-color semi-opaque plastic glass, in order to let the light go through and let the students see and locate each other. In the middle, between the work areas and the computer area, there would be buffer zone filled with working-sofa, which provide a support for a computer. This area would be adequate for chatting out loud, doing unfinished computer work or simply find a place to seat when all the working areas are filled or if someone simply wants to sit and relax, chat, etc.

To sum up, at the core of my project is balance between the needs of different types of students. My project involves the creation of three areas. The first area, which would occupy about half to 60% of the total space will be dedicated to separated round-shaped working areas for groups, each separated by book shelves. The second, at the opposite location of the first one, is the computer lab part of the library, which is currently scattered across the whole library. It would be gathered and concentrated into one area, possibly occupying 30% of the total space. Finally, between the two areas, a third space, delimited by transparent colored plastic glass, will provide students with working seats (or sofas), for working, chatting, etc. This “free area” would be adequate for finishing up work.