Finding out where students like to study, and visiting those places, is really fascinating. That’s been my project for the last few days.
This is a place called Ozone Coffee Roasters. It’s a combination coffee roasting place and café. This is a view of the lower level: as you can see, it’s pretty much all communal tables. There’s the long thin one on the left, and the wider tables against the walls.
Here’s some of the window seating upstairs. As you can see, pretty much every flat surface in this place is unstructured and communal. How this space gets used depends entirely on the people who sit down at it. It might be two people sitting together, or an individual sitting down with a computer. Unlike most bar seating up against windows, this table is really wide. It’s about as wide as the communal tables downstairs. Once I took one look at this space, I could understand why it was rated so highly as a study space. Students like to be able to spread out.
The bar. As you can see, this place has a culture of sitting down and digging into work. No one’s the slightest bit bothered that they’re looking into a busy working area rather than against a window.
I have to say, this place is loud. I imagine the students who come to work here really like that, because you’d have to. It’s a very trendy kind of industrial vibe, with lots of word. Very hip, loud, busy, and designed with serious coffee drinkers in mind.
Around the corner from Ozone is Salvation Jane, which is a way quieter, more chill kind of place. Much less polished, much less deliberately hip, but still funky and cool.
Here I think I saw some actual studying in action. Tables beyond, and the communal table in the foreground (where I’m having my soup and tea). This is a very slim communal table, and based on that I’m surprised it works. But it does.
Salvation Jane has an extended outdoor area as well. It’s covered, so students could sit out there if it were warm enough, in spite of any potential rain.
What I can’t help but notice in spaces like this is the old-timey kitchen table feel they have. It’s almost ubiquitous, the big farmhouse tables and classic chairs. It’s furniture picked for vibe rather than comfort, which is interesting. (Though: to be fair, they’re not uncomfortable.)
Walking between one place an another, I spotted another, modern take on this layout:
This is sort of fast food chipotle place. Nothing fancy, but walking past, I couldn’t help but notice the same themes, just less quirky-traditional style and materials. Here, like in Ozone, is a long, thin communal table.
Bar seating by the window, as is practically standard in nearly all libraries and cafés alike. And belowo that, something interesting: it’s a curved table. I didn’t get a good shot, but you can see the woman with the dark here and the light coat, with her back to us, in both pictures. The tables has a long straight end and a curved bit that goes into the restaurant.
Another interesting play on a communal table theme.
This is a popular communal table in Penarth, Wales (just outside of Cardiff). I thought the single bench along with the more moble chairs was an interesting touch.
What’s interesting in all this is that I bet they got the communal table meme from us:
This is a shared study table in a library on display in a museum. Antique shared tables: not that much has changed, really:
This is one of many reading rooms at the Senate House library, University of London. We were on this communal table thing from the beginning, weren’t we? And check out this periodical reading room:
Is it just me, or is this room going for “high brow living room”?
I’ve got more popular study joints to check out. The trends are already poking through, though: quirky, cosy, flexible (not necessarily on casters) space, free wifi, no pressure to finish your drink and get out, and, there’s no getting around this, food. Food is the unifying theme of all the places I’ve visited that students like. Though many of them buy one coffee and sit for hours. the proximity to food, the ability to get food and coffee easily should it become required, is a key factor here. Many libraries have a very firm distinction between a café and the library proper. I’m starting to seriously question the wisdom of that. And I’m not the only one:
The café at the Canada Water library is in pride of place: right as you walk in, at the base of the stairs, in the atrium with its ceiling all the way at the very top of the building. Either because of this design, or, as the librarian at the desk told me, a problem with the ventilation system, the entire library smells like coffee and baked goods. Which may or may not be a good thing, really. But still: the café is an integral part of the library experience here.
“Eat in or take away,” inside the library. How about that?
I’ve spoken about the Whitechapel Idea Store café before, because it’s spectacular. They put it at the top of the building, alongside a news-watching area and current popular periodicals.
Food and thinking go together, which might be why cafés are such popular and comfortable places for students to dig in and study. We’re taken a lot of ideas from them, and they’ve taken a lot of ideas from us.