The topics of technology and information go hand-in-hand and the successful use of technology is more often than not linked to the quality of information it conveys to the reader or user. With continual developments and advancements there are many aspects in which technologies are now suitable for external spaces and the ever-changeable British weather that comes with it.
But what types of technology and Information do you think should be embedded within the landscape of the Green Heart space that would make it useful and innovative? What are your expectations and your requirements?
When we were on campus interviewing students & staff between the 10th and 12th of May, we asked a couple of questions that addressed these two topics and the responses were both vast and varied.
On the subject of technology – charging and wifi points appeared to be popular suggestions, with some students liking solar panels and even wind turbines as a method of providing power. Other suggestions involved more interactions around AV screens and smart phone apps that could be used to interact with, and supply information about, key spaces, buildings and relevant events. The notion of a large screen and integrated speaker systems were also highlighted as useful for events held by the University and other large organisations for music etc. Finally there were discussions around the inclusion of interactive art within the landscape and the possibility of projections onto the façades of buildings, adding a sense of drama or a backdrop to the space.
There is an argument however, that the Green Heart spaces should be an area in which to escape from technology? Should there be some sanctity of space – where one can just read a book or a newspaper? Or spaces where you are able to sit, and be in peace – an antidote to the stresses of study, work and the city?
While some of the students and staff interviewed would like to strip out all information from the outdoor spaces, some are keen for it to become a hub of information. A popular suggestion was that wayfinding and navigation could help inform people of daily events and activities around the campus. This could sit beside a richer stream of information highlighting the history of the campus, famous graduates and their achievements / inventions, along with the University’s teaching and research achievements. Suggestions also focused on raising awareness of student bodies and societies, possibly showcasing exhibitions and temporary galleries.
Now we would like to know what kind of technology & information you would like to see in the Green Heart space. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments section, but if you prefer you can contribute in the upcoming polls which will be live in a couple of weeks.
Having zones would be really useful, with maybe a tech and social zones where people can charge a mobile and chat together along with a quiet zone which should be free of advertising and intrusion. I would really like to see plenty of seating to encourage us to sit outside in the summer, currently there aren’t enough benches and there are no picnic tables. Providing hot and cold water so we don’t have to buy one or stay in a staff room would be a nice touch
I think that focusing on technology is a distraction from the core space. There is a dichotomy between saying that you wish to revisit the original campus plan yet at the same time make it technologically current. There can be no permanence from this approach, as what is cutting-edge now soon becomes outmoded and unnecessarily costly (both financially and resource-wise) to maintain. The Bramhall displays a clarity of vision, with the superlative concert hall the heart and soul of the building.
I, like many others, will be sad to see the library go. It has been an essential part of my campus experience both as staff and student. However, mere nostalgia does not a successful institution make, so to replace it with something else that will inherently become redundant and not useful to all does not seem to me to be very sensible? Or aligned with Chamberlain’s original agenda to provide favourable circumstances for research?
It is the architecture that is most important and if this is done correctly the space will be flexible enough to change as and when required without losing the original vision or sense of ever-lasting green permanence; an aspect unique to this university. There are myriad reasons why excessive visual clutter – be it street furniture or AV displays – is not the answer. The ergonomics of the space will naturally see success if approached sensitively and ensure that all continue to enjoy it for generations to come.
Of course, it is all subjective and this is just my humble opinion, but there are some elements I would love to see:
– A feeling of an entrance to campus; a gateway to everything the university represents. I can remember standing on the library steps as a 16-year-old and having an unmistakable feeling that I was somewhere optimistic and indefinably special. That has never departed and I would like to see that recreated within the green heart, not demolished along with the red brick.
– Additions to our excellent artwork dotted around campus; or perhaps rotating displays of existing collections. We have multiple world-class displays at the University – sculpture, the Barber Institute, the soon-to-be-reopened Lapworth – so why not utilise them better?
– Revisiting certain elements of traditional craftsmanship. The university was forged from our industrial heartland and wherever possible I believe that Midlands-sourced labour, materials and techniques should be utilised. The university was part of a wider vision for Birmingham, not simply a self-serving grandiose project, so why not employ as many young apprentices as possible? How about traditional craftsmen conducting demonstrations on dry stone walling, masonry, wrought ironwork, etc.? These time-honoured crafts still exist and we should be supporting them.
As someone who works all day behind a computer and whose hobbies also involve technology heavily, I’d prefer a Green Heart with a greater focus on the disconnecting from the constant barrage of information. Somewhere to go, sit at a bench and relax, eat lunch and have a chat with friends instead of everyone checking their twitter feed.
There aren’t enough benches on campus in general so I feel the Green Heart project has a great opportunity to look at that lack of suitable outdoor seating.
I don’t feel a green space needs to be technologically innovative in terms of being “connected” – maybe some interesting engineering technology to build sculptures or walkways, or floating paths etc but not apps and wifi and information screens.
Has anyone suggested a non-smoking area to the Green Heart? Smoking close to buildings and people’s offices is a huge issue on campus and people will want to get outside to relax without second hand smoke, so a dedicated smoke-free zone would be nice.