Activation of student spaces


Physical space and a sense of comfort from being in the institution affect the motivation of students to study and are recognized as an integral part of the learning environment (Nordquist, 2019). The university should also be a platform for socialization and personal development, and the concept of comfort should be implemented in a comprehensive approach of space activation, and not just in the alternate renovations of classrooms.

Therefore, in March 2021, the team of the Ukrainian-Swiss project "Medical education development" together with the pilot medical higher education institutions (HEIs) joined efforts towards friendly learning spaces for students' needs. The initiative aimed to design and implement spaces for students and educators to facilitate effective learning in small groups, organize educational and leisure activities, and spend time alone or with colleagues. In addition, the aim is to create such spaces that everyone within the university could relax, get creative and feel comfortable. Based on the expertise of the Zvidsy spatial development agency and the experience of foreign universities, the concepts of student spaces have been created.

While working with student spaces, we focus primarily on the content, not on the emotions or moods that memory can associate with a particular location. We suggest looking at higher education from a broader perspective and not considering this experience only as attending lectures, seminars, and practical classes. In addition to basic learning opportunities, the university academy as an educational space should include non-formal education options. Therefore, we promote changes that inspire students to get an education in a comfortable space.

First of all, Zvidsy team conducted an exploratory study of medical higher education institutions from different cities of Ukraine: Poltava, Zhytomyr, Chernivtsi, Ternopil, Rivne and Kharkiv. During the research, Zvidsy team verbalized the issues and described the current state of the territories for further work on the activation of institutions. The ultimate goal was to study students' experience as individuals in an educational institution, which contributed to the development of a practical tool for activating educational institutions with different opportunities and resources. Zvidsy team has developed an analytical brochure to describe ways to increase comfort in medical higher education institutions. As a result, representatives of educational institutions have received a list of principles and solutions on how to improve the spaces. The next step has been to design individual solutions for each of the medical HEIs.

That was followed by a stage of analysis of each institution’s capacities to implement the concept as a whole, or its individual parts. All results were collected in a separate presentation "Spatial potential of higher education institutions of Ukraine" and presented to the pilot medical HEIs.

The main goal of this sub-project is to activate new places for students’ rest and pastime at the institutions. In this work, the agency team relies on preliminary research on the main aspects of university life.

‘Students space’ project's main principles:

  • creating of comfortable conditions for self-education on the territory of the HEI;
  • improving comfort for extracurricular activities on the institution's territory: food, communication, recreation;
  • creating conditions for a new positive user experience from the educational space;
  • giving students the freedom to create their own initiatives and self-improvement of space for their own needs.

Meanwhile, we also talked to the founder of the Zvidsy agency, Oleksandr Shevchenko, about how to activate the untapped spatial potential of the HEIs and improve the experience of students without large capital investments. Oleksandr comments: “It is very difficult to choose a proper period for renovation – the technological and fast-paced world is changing at a faster pace. So, there is no need to wait for the instruction for regular capital renovations from above, it is necessary to implement the programs which will stimulate systematic involvement of students and teachers in the processes within higher education institutions. It is also important to involve experts, as this will accelerate and facilitate the process of change and make the result better. Every higher education institution should review these processes every time your smartphone gets new updates from Silicon Valley.” Read the full interview with Oleksandr Shevchenko here.

Projects under implementation

Andrei Krupynskyi Lviv Medical Academy

On January 21, 2021, the Andrei Krupynskyi Lviv Medical Academy (LMA) opened an educational space for its students with the support of the Ukrainian-Swiss project "Medical education development" and the architectural agency Zvidsy. The concept of student space was created based on the experience of foreign universities.

"Today we depend on the stability and professionalism of doctors and nurses more than ever. In working with the Lviv Medical Academy, we as architects drew attention to the importance of rest and recovery of students during their studies. The street location near the nut-tree in the yard of the academy gives a breath of fresh air in a literal and figurative sense, modernizes the historic complex of buildings and offers a comfortable place to meet and relax" said Alexander Shevchenko, founder of Zvidsy Spatial Development Agency.

For their part, LMA students are also pleased to see positive changes in the interests of students. "We have become hostages of a virtual environment that cannot replace live communication between people. We all find ourselves in a situation where we need public spaces in the fresh air, where we can spend time with friends. This location is for this purpose — for networking of the student community and education, which goes beyond its usual understanding" said Diana Saharnatskaya, a third-year student studying to become a nurse.

Lviv Academy Lviv Academy Lviv Academy

Rivne Medical Academy

In this project, the agency's team is working on selected points that have the greatest potential to influence a large number of students and staff in higher education. The points have been chosen taking into account the current situation as of 2021, the number of users, the expected effect. The following locations have been selected:

  • room in the dormitory №1 from RMA, 43 Stepana Bandera Street, Rivne,
  • area near the RMA Simulation Center, Dormitory №3, 6 Kurchatova Street, Rivne.
Rivne Academy Rivne Academy Rivne Academy

Future projects

Zhytomyr Medical Institute

The Zvidsy team held discussions with the working group, identified and analyzed the needs of the residents, and focused on the main goal of the work — to activate new places to relax and spend time. As part of the project, colleagues from the agency are working on two selected points that have the potential for quality space with the largest number of people during the day. Points were selected in two zones, one for each:

  • zone in the adjacent territory of the institution,
  • area in the premises.
Zhytomir Academy Zhytomir Academy Zhytomir Academy Zhytomir Academy Zhytomir Academy Zhytomir Academy

I. Horbachevsky Ternopil National Medical University

This project used a service model in which the Zvidsy team analyzed the basic needs of students during the school day. As a result of the analysis, the area between the educational building and the Theater Square has been chosen — the yard of the Corps of Medical and Biological Problems (Slovatskoho Street). The photo shows his current condition. The building is used by a total of several thousand students a day (about 4,000) and is deprived of a full-fledged recreation or extracurricular area. The projected area is located in the active zone of the city, at the intersection of major pedestrian flows.

Territory problems:

  • the nearby Theater Square is a source of noise and crowds; the square is not shaded by the sun, has many outlets, does not contribute to a long stay,
  • adjoining kiosks with access to the inside of the yard, create discomfort and turn the main yard of the educational building into a backyard-warehouse of food establishments.

During the first visit and with the help of partners, the agency received all the documents and dimensions for drawing up a measurement plan. According to the new vision, the master plan focuses on attracting users deep into the yard to create quality leisure conditions and to unload the central entrance during peak hours.

Zhytomir Academy Zhytomir Academy Zhytomir Academy Zhytomir Academy Zhytomir Academy

Bukovinian State Medical University

The results of the survey of students showed that they have a high need for rest, communication, preparation for classes and accessibility to the premises of the university. Therefore, several locations were selected for consideration.

Academy Academy Academy Academy Academy Academy Academy Academy Academy Academy

Kharkiv National Medical University

In order to work on this project, the survey was conducted among Ukrainian and international students. Interpretation of the study results showed:

  • both Ukrainian and international students often point out the problems of navigation on campuses and buildings,
  • it was difficult for students to study online, but returning to offline (this is the time before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine's sovereign territory - ed.) is also stressful,
  • the experience of Ukrainian and international students differs, as representatives of these groups communicate little with each other,
  • international students have many ideas for their adaptation tools at a Ukrainian university,
  • students do not have enough time for rest and social life,
  • students express interest in extracurricular activities, but point to the lack of announcement of activities and work of groups,
  • students want to spend time together, but also point to the need for solitude,
  • students would like to have their own space for relaxation, communication and self-education.

Based on the results of the study, a reception committee (educational laboratory building (ELB) and its dining room were selected to activate the space. The project is currently under design..

Academy Academy Academy Academy