Monday, 10 September 2007

Information Commons: University of Sheffield

On Friday I attended an Open Day for the new Information Commons at the University of Sheffield. To quote from the introductory booklet:

"Since the Middle Ages, the word 'commons' has described a shared resource and expressed the idea of community. So the Information Commons is a shared environment where the University's academic community can come together to access a wide variety of information and learning resources."

It is a very impressive building. Of course all new library buildings have an initial impact but I think this one will remain impressive even when the initial gloss has worn off. From the outside the building is distinctive and well proportioned. The blue-green of the prepatinated copper with the grey of the terracotta makes this a landmark building that is not flamboyant but has an unique identity.

The entrance loby is spacious, uncluttered and remarkably understated. It has the air of an airport departure lounge when all flights have been cancelled. There are then four main levels and a smaller extension of two further levels. Each level has its own identifying colour and this is indicated by the colour of the soft furniture, video display panels and space dividers. Within each level there is a variety of different spaces of varied shape and form. These include areas for individual study , group study, soft seating and study rooms. There are 1,300-plus study spaces with over 500 PCs.

There are distinctive architectural features with internal voids and imaginitive use of materials. Works of art are used to good effect and there are spectacular views from the windows.

Video display panels throughout the building provide information about opening times and services. There is an enquiry desk on the ground floor while members of staff rove the building and can be summoned by telephones located on each floor.

Further details and photographs will be provided on the SINTO wiki. All photographs are by Carl Clayton

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