By Design

June 14, 2024

Rethinking an existing space isn’t easy, but the planning team that recently refurbished a popular student space has done it.

During the academic semester, you can find hundreds of students in a large section on the Queen Elizabeth II Library’s third floor, colloquially known as the “fiesta deck” due to its resemblance to a ship’s main lounging and embarkation area.

Memorial University staff recently revamped the space by installing new furniture designed to provide quiet spots to help students focus on their work or relax during their downtime.

Some smart design features, such as noise-absorbing space dividers, contribute to the calm ambiance. Some painted walls add a fresh feel.

Creating a successful space meant juggling the competing needs of individual and group study use in an open area.

“Updating the space posed some interesting challenges because of its multi-use nature, but we are proud of the end result,” said Rob Ball, manager of facilities at the library.

“We wanted to ensure the space was still used to the same capacity as before the refresh,” said William Flynn, the project co-ordinator with Facilities Management. “I think the existing space functioned very well for what students wanted, but it lacked varied seating options. We included more seating for students from individual study chairs and desks to large group lounge furniture.”

The space dividers are made of felt and hang from the ceiling in several locations, serving the dual purpose of sound dampening and creating different inviting zones.

“A large issue with the old furniture was sound, so to help mitigate the sound transfer, we knew we needed to incorporate large acoustic felt panels throughout without making the space feel too chopped up,” said Mr. Flynn. “The panels with the cutouts were the perfect solution.”

Another key consideration in the project was accessibility.

One of the first things users will notice in the space is the number of furniture items secured to the floor.

“When we laid out the furniture, we ensured it was all accessible regardless of an individual’s mobility,” said Mr. Flynn. “We also created open spots at some of the furniture for people who use wheelchairs to pull up to.”

Two green study pods with high, upholstered walls.
Workspaces that offer quiet and fewer distractions are now an option for students.
 PHOTO: RICH BLENKINSOPP

The Office of the Associate Vice-President (Academic) Students and the Queen Elizabeth II Library co-funded the renovation project. The two units co-funded a number of upgrades in the last few years, including a gender-inclusive washroom.

Dr. Dianne Keeping, dean, Memorial University Libraries, says the QEII Library is a central landmark on campus and is a key centre for campus engagement and events.

“We continue to prioritize, as much as possible, investment in our library spaces because we want students to feel welcome and comfortable, to connect with other students, information and technology and to find quiet study areas without distraction — whatever they need to enhance their academic experience at Memorial.”