Identity & Belonging

The notion of identity is an often overlooked yet critical aspect of creating a new space. A good identity will connect with people, giving them a sense of pride and a feeling of belonging. In our experience, understanding the real, rather than the perceived identity of a community is often the route to creating a truly lasting and successful place.

Universities across the country have been developing new types of space and new buildings to support student experience in the 21st century. Although these are often pleasant contemporary spaces, there can be a degree of similarity and replication that occurs due to the types of products, materials and furniture available on the market suitable for these large public spaces.

However, the spaces that stand out as special are those that express something about the identity of that place and the community who inhabit it. There is a myriad of ways in which this can be achieved from the design of the architectural envelope through to the furniture specification, internal artwork and even the online personality of a place.

We are often asked to write/speak about this topic, and two projects in our portfolio illustrate the point quite well.

The projects are very different, yet are located just a mile apart.  The first project is a student centre for the University of Glasgow.  This project, a refurb of a 1960’s concrete structure, sits amid the wonderful historic architecture of the UoG campus.  The facade looking onto this is almost entirely glazed, and the layout is orientated to make the most of these views.  Vintage furniture borrowed from around campus and oak finishes echoing the original oak used throughout the original campus buildings provide tangible links to the past. Underlining all of this are a series of graphic artworks constructed from University archive and museum materials which display a mixture of achievements, historical events, people and quirky cultural references, which could only be found in this place.

Just up the road in the city centre is a large multi-building project for Glasgow Caledonian University which provides a sharp contrast to the UoG project. Here, the architecture and internal structures have been used to express the concept of a forward-thinking, ambitious, different place. The design mixes organic forms with furniture and materials that are colourful and quirky to blend the inside with the newly landscaped exterior juxtaposing the internal artwork, which is abstract, sharp and geometric.

So how can we uncover the real identity of NUI Galway and in particular the Library community? The fantastic response to the polls have helped to shed some light on this, but we would like to delve deeper.  How would you characterise your community and its identity?  What should we be striving to achieve? Leave a comment or message us @nuignewlibrary

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