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Wednesday
Jul132016

Speak Easy: Hospitality’s Influences on Education

Image © Gensler

Anyone who has ever stepped into a luxury spa or resort knows that hospitality is more than expensive products, materials and furnishings; it’s about the service and the curated experiences. People are seeking these meaningful, authentic experiences not just in hotels, but in the office, where they go shopping, and even at universities. This was the main theme of our second Speak Easy session on the impact of hospitality on how we live, work and play. (Read about our first session on hospitality’s influence on the workplace hospitality’s influence on the workplace here.)

Recent changes in higher education, such as rising tuition fees, have driven the desire for a student experience that matches the cost of their education. With only about a third of U.K. students thinking they get good value for money from their university, higher education institutions are under increasing pressure to respond to students with a "sharper eye for value." As a result, some aspects of hospitality design are permeating this sector to support a ‘student as customer’ ethos.

To help us better understand the impact of these emergent approaches to urban design and education, we convened a panel of internal and external industry experts: Alice O’Keefe, Maja Nesdale and Kenny Allan from Gensler and Michael Curry from DPA, in order to delve deeper into how to fulfil our clients’ commercial aspirations and the needs of the end user.

Image © Gensler

Here’s a look at a few of our findings:

The inclusive community

Rather than being seen as a ‘hotel,’ hospitality operators are embracing a more inclusive model with a slightly toned down brand that is focused on service and engaging the community. A new mix of people and uses provide guests with a more authentic experience that’s heavily influenced by its location. The same phenomenon is also taking place in our universities, which also see the added value and importance of service, experience and destination for students. Universities are tailoring campus lobbies and community spaces to create friendlier, more inviting work and social environments. This could include public-facing spaces that are open to these communities, such as co-working spaces or academic incubators.

The student profile has changed

Students are no longer just drawn to universities with a reputation for a great party atmosphere and a cheap student union bar. Students want more out of their education and overall learning and living experiences. This changing profile, along with a shift in student priorities and the private developer, has led to student housing boom in Europe, including a new student accommodation type. Cities, communities and local neighbourhoods are seeing the value of the student pound and the vibrancy students bring to an area. When not in use, developers are exploring alternative ways to utilise empty student accommodation spaces by renting out units. Because of this, we are seeing a rise in the number in hospitality-styled student digs, which is dramatically changing the aesthetic of student living and making these accommodations easily rentable to savvy young travellers.

The ‘death’ of the corridor

The corridor in schools can be a negative or awkward place to use; a place where bullying might occur. These spaces can often be busy and stressful for young children and teenagers. So how can you remove the corridor or how can these circulation places in primary and secondary schools be a place for more than circulation? This was a key aspect of Gensler’s work looking at the new model of schools for the Building Schools for the Future programme a number of years ago. When exploring these ideas, Gensler’s education practice took cues from the hospitality sector on what makes a successful hotel lobby and atrium. Instead of negative spaces, circulation areas could be spaces for working together, for socialising or more focused working; helping to foster more meaningful experiences for students and more value for their student pound.

Don’t forget the importance of lighting…

There are no boundaries when it comes to the possibilities available through lighting design. Providing flexibility in design, from furniture to lighting, is key. Especially within the campus, spaces can use lighting to stimulate or calm classes, helping students to focus on the task at hand.

Hospitality’s influence on education

Universities are under increasing pressure from students, who are demanding more now that they are paying higher tuitions. There is also greater competition for funding, not only in the classroom, but also around the campus—from the student library to their accommodations. Universities need their buildings to ‘work harder’ by providing flexible spaces that can be used for multiple purposes, offering students more variety with a reduced footprint.

Florent Duperrin is an associate and interior designer in Gensler’s London office. He has worked with international clients on luxury hotels and retail environments in various countries, and believes that in design there is no beginning and no end to how much you can learn and share. Contact him at Florent_Duperrin@gensler.com.
Kenneth Allan is an associate and a key member of the planning and urban design team in Gensler’s London office. His international project experience equips him with a unique perspective on climate and sensitivity of context, and he has a passion for design to facilitate a wide range of uses and the enjoyment of people who live and work in cities around the world. Contact him at Kenneth_Allan@gensler.com.
Maja Nesdale is a firmwide practice area leader for our Education practice. At Gensler London she is deeply involved in designing enhanced learning environments that deliver innovative learning experience for all levels of students. Maja has extensive experience working with diverse clients and delivering successful projects of various scales across sectors. Contact her at maria_nesdale@gensler.com.