Learning Environments Spatial Lab, University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne’s Learning Environment Spatial Lab (LESL) is a redevelopment of an old gymnasium within the heart of a 1930’s heritage listed building into an experimental environment explicitly aimed at exploring the pedagogy-space relationship.

Project Details

Architects
Architectus and Assoc. Prof Jamieson, Strategic Advisor, Learning Environments Design

Award
Winner Category 3: An Educative Initiative or A Design Solution for an Innovative Program

Address
Frank Tate Building 189, Parkville campus of the University of Melbourne, Melbourne 3010

Submitter
Ruth Wilson, Director of Architectus Group Pty Ltd

Cost
$1,200,000

Photographer
Ian Davidson

Project Overview

The University of Melbourne’s Learning Environment Spatial Lab (LESL) redevelops an old gymnasium within the heart of a 1930’s heritage listed building into an experimental environment explicitly aimed at exploring the pedagogy-space relationship. A visitor to LESL might encounter a range of simultaneous activity – including a small group discussion around a large kitchen table; a mock portion of a classroom set-up to model the use of a new audio-visual device for small group learning; and a design team creating cardboard templates of proposed tables for small-group learning. On another occasion, the visitor might find the entire floor space is laid out as a possible configuration for collaborative, teamteaching in a distinct disciplinary field (e.g. Physics) for a class of 42 students. The use of the LESL in this way can be programmed over an intensive period to replicate real-life, timetabled classes for trainee teachers. Timber joinery units line the walls, with handles and wheels which prompt interaction. The units are multi-dimensional- they slide along the wall, panels fold out to become room dividers and reveal an inner world of colourful writing surfaces, pin boards and storage. Every second unit houses a large LCD screen. Visitors can plug in their lap tops, connect to the internet, see their work on the screen, or indeed on all the seven screens in the room. A curtain can be pulled around the alcove to create a discrete discussion pod. Tables can be pushed to the side and the space can be set up in ‘lecture mode’, two tables can join together in ‘board-room’ mode, by using the sliding wall units and their foldable panels limitless configurations of grouping and subgroupings can be explored. LESL encourages users to explore its setting physically and pedagogically. It is an environment for active, collaborative, investigative learning to support the widespread push towards student-centred, problem-based learning in all educational sectors. Critically, through its design and underlying educational ideas, LESL presents learning as a socially-oriented, physically-located and sensory-rich process which is a radical perspective in the higher education sector. It is a highly adaptable and enabling setting which is stimulating and comfortable.

This page last updated: Tuesday 11 September 2012