At Bangkok University, Thai practice Supermachine Studio has created a new student lounge space where karaoke goes hand-in-hand with informal tutorial sessions. Narelle Yabuka reports.
Not all that long ago, jammed slide carousels might have rated among the most entertaining aspects of lectures for some university students. How times – and teaching methods – have changed. Learning has veered far deeper into self-based territory; teaching has become progressively interactive; and increased competition between institutions has redefined the university experience.
When they’re on campus (and even before they enrol), students are wowed and wooed. Bangkok University completed the distinctive angular Landmark Complex of teaching spaces at its Rangsit Campus in 2009, and recently decided to implement a change-of-use for part of the interior. A space that formerly accommodated the offices of professors has been reprogrammed as a striking student lounge.
The BU Lounge (a.k.a. ‘Imagine Lounge’) is a place with a “youngsters’ ecology”, explains architect Pitupong Chaowakul of Bangkok-based multidisciplinary practice Supermachine Studio. With its play elements, bold forms and patterns, and informal tutorial areas, it is a clear expression of the need for universities to both remain attractive to students and adapt to changes in teaching and learning methods.
An iconic gigantic panda bear sculpture houses a spiral staircase (cheekily accessed via the panda’s bottom) that links the venue’s 2 levels. Meeting and studying spaces dominate the lower level, while more dynamic ‘break time’ activities are catered to upstairs. There, 2 huts dominate the open floorscape.
One of these, clad with timber slats, is an openable music rehearsal space that can accommodate small student events. The other, which hangs over the edge of the upper floor, is a karaoke lounge with polka-dot pink surfaces.
Play areas around the huts contain elements such as a giant dart board, an over-length pool table, a round ping pong table, and, surprisingly, a pole-dancing corner.
Students who prefer to focus on their books, laptops, and iPads can do so in the downstairs ‘Reading Cave’. This series of porous rooms contains multiple types of seating (including swings) that can accommodate individual study, small informal tutorials, or large group discussions. The cave enclosure has been created with hundreds of ribs of engineered wood.
Outside the cave is the ‘Big Sofa’ – a flexible composition of pixel-like seating units that can be arranged for gatherings that are formal or relaxed. In reinforcement of the ‘imagining’ concept stated in the venue’s name, a light box ‘creature’ fitted with spines of bottles snakes along overhead, referencing the energetic zig-zag pattern on the floor.
Now, a quick round of karaoke and then back to that paper on international business management…