Utilising Third Spaces In Universities


For students living on campus, university is more than just an educational space, it is a hub for socialisation, a home in the term time and a place for events and exhibitions. But what about students who do not live on campus?

Whilst university offers access to quiet libraries and busy canteen areas, there is a lack of choice for students who require a space away from the pressure of both. This leads to the idea of a ‘third space’: “a place that is outside home (first space) and work (second space) where people gather and interact” [1]. For universities, there are many unused areas of buildings on campus which can offer the perfect space for an innovative ‘third space’ like communal seating, coworking rooms or self-serve kitchens. To put it simply, a ‘third space’ is versatile in use as it is not associated with a particular function so it allows students, especially commuters, to connect with other students in a space for multiple needs.

At Pinnacle, we recently completed a refurbishment project at University of Surrey where their Lecture Theatre Concourse was redesigned into a space precisely for students who require access to a ‘third space’. We utilised open, idle space in the walkway and fitted soft banquette seating and tables to offer a comfortable and collaborative environment for a short stay experience. The versatility of this space means that it can be used as required by the students for a catch up with a friend, a quick break with a coffee or a nook for study etc. Whilst students who live on campus may have access to a shared lounge area in their halls, spaces like these mean that commuters have the same flexibility.

Therefore, by enhancing flexibility and belonging in universities, design offers more than an aesthetic purpose but can encourage a feeling of belonging in educational environments.


[1] ‘Meeting to Transgress’, January 2019, Inside Higher Ed