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University of Helsinki – becoming ‘a better place’

We are working on a project for the University of Helsinki, in collaboration with Jaana Tarma at Crastinus Service Design on redesigning teaching and learning classrooms. The approach is very collaborative, involving a Pedagogy research team and in-house architects from the university’s Estate Team. The team and wider support teams could not be nicer, more generous with their input and support – it is such a pleasurable co-creation experience.

The pedagogy team’s work is critical as it ensures we start the work with an understanding of the impact space has on the teaching and learning experience. Bringing in Jaana Tarma on a service design need, clarified the necessity for interior design input and how the a better place’ methodology would provide the clarity and information required. a better place is a wellbeing evaluation and integration methodology developed by Grigoriou Interiors that consists of four interconnecting parts: people, space, insights and value.

The initial aim of the project was to review, benchmark and propose improvements to the interior design of classrooms, using one specific lecture room as the testing ground. We have been measuring the impact space has on both students and teachers and how everybody’s productivity and wellbeing can be improved as a result through the space’s design.

The questions the project has sought to answer are:

  • What is the current performance of the physical space against good practice?
  • Who are the users and what does their good performance look like?
  • What space features should be improved to allow teachers and students to perform well?

We undertook some high-level user journey activities that brought to light various areas that could be improved to enhance the user experience of both students and teachers. These helped clarify the experience for anyone involved in a student’s daily life at the campus, and inform teachers on ways they can complement the students’ experience.

We used the ‘a better place’ methodology to create User Profiles to help understand the pain points and open up possibilities for new ways of teaching and learning. We started with 4 profiles: two reflecting different student users and two reflecting different teacher types. The proposed design took on-board detailed characteristics, drivers, needs and overall psychology of the users to inform the design approach and details.

Throughout the process, we have been able to identify cross-departmental issues, for example between IT and security or between pedagogy approaches and the estates team’s understanding, which impede the most effective budgeting, operational, and overall coordinated student service.

Identifying what is of ‘value’ and measuring that value as a mark of success for both the space’s design and the university’s service, was part of the project. We established what is ‘good performance’ and linked it to spatial design which now enables decision makers to take an informed approach and coordinated..

The university’s targets and philosophy were very much in focus throughout the project and ensured that the space design and operational objectives were delivering on the publicised university goals.

This first phase of the project has just been completed with the client team having the following deliverables:

  • The university teams owning their first 4 User Profiles which they can build on from now on
  • a pre-design performance benchmark of the existing space
  • a list of performance measurements and objectives to target and measure success and refine next steps, and
  • a proposed design that meets the needs of users and supports their high performance.

Phase 2 has now commenced and will use the results of Phase 1 to deliver the detailed space design, working closely with specialist acousticians, lighting designers and air quality specialists as much as interior product and material suppliers.

It is a real pleasure to support the local teams on each part of this journey. Watch out for further project updates in 2019 and if you would like to find out how to make your space a better place please contact us on or +44 20 7580 0611.



Why are user profiles important within interior design?

Understanding the impacts on occupants' wellbeing is important and part of the clarity sought on

What is design for wellbeing?

What does design for wellbeing actually mean? Design for wellbeing focuses on creating spaces


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