We have previously discussed the design of different rooms in a PBSA building: bedroom, study room, dining room, and cinema room. Last but not least is the lounge, which we believe may be the most important one as it can include the uses of all other types of rooms but in a more flexible way.
One of the main worries of PBSA operators is that the lounges will not be used and stay empty. Lounge is a very loose term. It is quite often associated with an open space with a sofa in the middle of it. Students can be confused about how and when to use it. They can be very successful or not, depending on the group of people.
So what is a lounge?
A lounge is a multifunctional space primarily for studying or relaxing within communal areas. It’s the essence of a coliving - it's a place where a community is formed. It can serve students when they want to conduct a particular task or meet a particular person but not only. Whenever they feel like they don’t know what they want to do, they can simply pass through the lounge to see what’s going on there. They know that people will be there and that’s most important. Shaping those spaces can have a big impact on students’ behaviors and facilitate meetings between them. We call it design for social interaction. We have been working with many different PBSA operators and each of them defines lounges a bit differently, but we can observe common design principles which we would like to share with you in this article.
When we talk about the lounge space usually we talk about a big open space or rather a series of interconnected lounges of different use. You can pass through them which makes them a little bit like circulation spaces or a corridor - a perfect setup for an unexpected meeting. This arrangement also contributes to the transparency of interactions - an important topic when designing communal spaces. Colivers can simply have a glance at what’s happening there without a need to enter the space. Another advantage of this layout is its flexibility. Those interconnected spaces can become one bigger one if needed. It's easy to assume that lounges are designed for bigger groups. It’s a big misconception! Communal spaces need to be designed for any group size. For an individual person and a group of 20, but also for every group size in between. We have covered the importance of designing private spaces within communal spaces in this article. The flexibility to accommodate various group sizes can be achieved both in terms of room sizes and furniture layouts. The lounges are connected to each other but there is a different vibe in each of them.
We believe that the location of the lounges should be defined by noise levels.
An example of this can be seen clearly in one of our Nido projects in Copenhagen. You enter the building into a semi-loud reception lounge. From there the noise levels transmutes in both directions, to a quiet lounge and a tv lounge.
DEFINING THE USE → TYPES OF LOUNGES
The main question is whether there is a way to control if and how students use the lounges. We believe that the solution is to give a clear use to those spaces. Students need to know where to go to get what they want. It's also easier for them to engage in a bit of socialising when they know what type of activity they can expect in each space. At the same time, we want to keep those spaces flexible. One of our design challenges is to strike this balance between giving it a clear use - so it's actually used - and keeping it flexible so students can always adjust how they use it throughout a day or seasons. That way the space can be future proof long term.
In the majority of our project we can distinguish 4 types of lounges defined by their use. Let's look at them.
Servery lounge is a mixed-use flexible lounge for chill-out or informal studies. It is characterised by a small kitchenette with an island and stools in front of it. It's a perfect space for students to take their coffee break and quickly catch up with other colleagues. It’s important to mention that servery room is not a PDR which on contrary has a proper kitchen. It's a space for a drink, maybe a small snack - a bit of a café vibe. It also contains a few smaller tables that can be combined into a bigger one for larger events and some comfortable sofas. It's also a really nice arrangement for the operator to organise events, whether just for students or open to a selection of external visitors.
The centerpiece of this space is a TV. There are lots of comfortable sofas and armchairs loosely arranged around it. Usually, we use darker finishes and dimmable lighting for this space which gives it a bit of a cinema mood. The space should have the option to be enclosed using heavy curtains for instance, but it's different than a cinema room which is permanently enclosed with proper cinema seating rather than lounge. The room should be flexible. When people do not watch the TV it can be used as an informal meeting space. The concentrated arrangement of the furniture makes it also a really good spot for karaoke or Ted Talks for instance. It’s a good design practice to consider TV while not in use because it can be perceived as an impersonal piece of furniture. You can create features around it so that the atmosphere is not just dictated by the presence of a screen.
A quiet lounge is a room where students can relax or focus in a calmer environment. It can resemble coworking. It has a few loose tables in the middle and quite often a banquette seating adjacent to a wall. Banquette seating is a good compromise between soft seating but structured enough to work. A variety of seating is important in this room so students can work in smaller groups, but they can also study by themselves with minimal interruption. Another typical piece of furniture here is a booth which gives more privacy. It is important to think about acoustic separation in this space which can be achieved by the use of specific furniture - high-back armchairs or adequate arrangement of the banquette seating for example.
It’s the “fun” room that allows students to recharge in an active manner while socialising at the same time. It’s the loudest of the lounges. Because of that, it’s usually placed in a remote part of a building like a basement or just next to the entrance. It offers a variety of specialty equipment like pool table, foosball or tennis table. It usually has loosely arranged armchairs and sofas for other students chilling or simply waiting for “their turn” to play a game. We quite often use vibrant/funky colours for this room which aligns with its active mood.
All the above lounge types should be of high design quality. Pleasant spaces will make people want to spend time in them. Feeling comfortable and happy with what surrounds us is a perfect setup for good bonding between colivers. We see lounges as tools to drive social interaction and social interaction as one of the most important missions of the coliving spaces. On top of that, well-designed communal spaces are a perfect marketing material for the operators. Students choose colivings instead of individual apartments because of those particular rooms. There is a lot of value in their good design.