Beyond the imperatives of quality teaching, adequate funding, universal access and so forth, the relevance of design to educational outcomes is well established. Put simply, students at all levels – from pre-school, through primary and secondary, to the tertiary level – do better in well-designed settings.
As numerous studies have found, spaces that are safe, quiet, comfortable and designed to direct minds to the task of learning, result in the best educational outcomes. Indeed – as the best examples illustrate – well-designed learning spaces actually energise their occupants. They help focus all involved (i.e. students and teachers) on the tasks at hand and place them in the best position to reach their full potential.
As is the case with all types of architectural achievement, such success is not always easy to identify. It extends to all aspects of design and fitout – from the use of light and shade, to classroom size, safety, acoustics and even the choice of walling materials and furnishings. And it extends to flooring. The flooring used in schools, day care centres, libraries, and universities has a significant effect on student performance.
This article focuses on two of the best flooring choices for libraries and educational settings, namely rugs and carpeting. Focussing on the offerings of one leading supplier, Designer Rugs, it outlines the benefits they bring to educational projects. It includes several case studies to illustrate the qualities of rugs and carpeting; and points out why Designer Rugs is the right flooring supplier for your next school, library, or university project.
In terms of educational applications, Designer Rugs’ track record is particularly strong. “Education and library spaces are often subject to high amounts of foot traffic, and require especially durable and high-quality flooring while still providing softness, comfort and a strong design element. Our rugs and carpets are made from the highest quality New Zealand wool, known for both its softness and durability, and hand tufted with great skill to withstand many years,” says Tal.
Designer Rugs key educational projects involving these products include Marrickville Library, Siena College and more. In all of them, its products display all the qualities that such projects require.
As discussed, design – and more specifically flooring design – can have a significant impact on student well-being, and result in improved learning outcomes. Between them, Designers Rugs’ design team have over 40 years of experience. Whether a particular project calls for a design that soothes or stimulates, together they have what it takes to meet the brief. Through their exclusive collaborations with Australian designers and artists (including three striking indigenous collections), they are able to offer products that few competitors can match.
Over recent years, the broader community has become increasingly aware of the negative health impacts of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Found in some building materials, these chemicals are to be avoided. This isn’t a concern for those considering purchasing 100% New Zealand Wool rugs from Designer Rugs. Not only have these products been tested and found to be low-VOC emitting, but they have also been shown to naturally absorb and filter airborne VOCs.
Poor acoustics and the presence of uncontrolled background noise have been shown to negatively affect learning and even impact cognitive development. As such, acoustics are now established as a key element of classroom design. Rugs and carpets from Designer Rugs represent an excellent choice for absorbing sound and providing an acoustic buffer. They can help meet Australian acoustic standards for classrooms.
Across all educational settings, and particularly in libraries, the ability to define space is important. Instead of using barriers to delineate sections for foot traffic, children, or quiet relaxation, architects and designers tend to prefer a less direct approach. They like to rely on their own skill sets, along with furnishings, to define space. Rugs and carpet are perfect for this. The team at Designer Rugs are experts in using subtle tweaks of design or colour to help suggest the purpose of a space.
A further benefit of rugs and carpeting is their ability to contribute to branding in educational settings. More than any material or furnishing, they are able to not only make a strong first impression, but define and reflect the ethos of a particular place. For this reason, Designer Rugs products have become much sought after, particularly in the foyers, entrances, and meeting rooms of schools and libraries.
Together these qualities ensure that woollen rugs, as designed and manufactured by Designer Rugs, are products of choice for educational applications.
The winner of numerous awards, including the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture and the David Oppenheim Award for Sustainable Architecture, Marrickville Library was designed by Sydney-based practice BVN.
Part of a larger project that involved transforming the disused (and heritage-listed) old Marrickville Hospital into a public hub, the new facility was conceived as a space that transcends the traditional role of libraries and facilitates community engagement.
The architects’ choice of flooring included a selection of seven handmade rugs, designed by Sydney artist Mickemon Lindebergh in collaboration with Designer Rugs.
Explaining the thinking behind this choice, BVN’s Kim Small said, “Floors in education and library precincts will not only be traversed by building occupants but also occupied as learners use the floor to sit, lie, relax, study and learn. Floor coverings should be soft, thick, comfortable and not scratchy.”
In addition, she said, they need to be durable and long lasting. On these terms, the Designer Rugs products fit the bill perfectly. Featuring a surface that can conceal the inevitable stains associated with public exposure, they are ready to stand the test of time.
Small pointed to the “vibrancy and joy” that the rugs, the designs of which were inspired by native flowers, bring to the library. “Babies, toddlers and young children love them as they explore the different colours and spaces along the surface,” she said, adding that more sophisticated versions, which are used throughout the adult spaces of the library, impart a sense of homeliness and interest.
Specified to fit the specific needs of the library’s different users and meeting all the requirement of safety, design, branding, and durability, the rugs have been a great success. They have found a natural home at the library and clearly contribute to the brief of creating a welcoming, inclusive community space.
Significantly, Marrickville Library isn’t the only educational project in which BVN has included Designer Rugs’ products. Others include Ravenswood Girls School on Sydney’s North Shore and Woollahra Library in the city’s eastern suburbs. At Ravenswood the rugs, which are used to define spaces in the Mabel Fidler Building, also feature a biophilic element. Their vibrant colours and designs suggest nature and energize the students in much the same way that the inclusion of indoor plants would.
Siena College is a Catholic school for girls, which was founded in the 1930s. Architecturally, the college’s most noteworthy feature has always been its Byzantine-style chapel and convent, which were built around the time it was established. Initially home to the Dominican nuns who founded the school, it later accommodated Siena’s music and drama departments.
More recently, in 2019, the college enlisted the services of William Ross Architects (WRA) to update the historic building. Newly renovated, the old chapel and convent now act as Siena’s main entrance and administrative centre. In all, the building incorporates the College Reception with waiting areas and interview room, offices for the Principal and Deputy Principals, a Heritage room, Board Room, function spaces, and staff amenities.
In terms of carpeting, WRA wanted something that reflects the rich history and community values of the school. The products they eventually chose, a selection of custom-made rugs from Designer Rugs, meet this brief perfectly. Made from the highest quality, hand tufted New Zealand wool, they are not only durable and long lasting, but also especially vibrant and vivid.
Throughout the newly-refurbished building, from the reception to the Heritage Room and beyond, the customised rugs meet all expectations in terms of fit and functionality. Beyond that, thanks to the design expertise of their supplier, they present as irreplaceable components of the architects’ overall vision; key parts of their successful attempt to both honour Siena College’s past and point to its bright future.
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