Architects WindsorPatania are designing the future of education with their latest project, Extended Reality Lab (XR Lab), for Eastern Colleges Group. Students at West Suffolk College (UK) have started to explore the awe-inspiring facilities comprising four distinct areas: an Immersion Lab, a Collaboration Theatre, a Green Room, and a Conference Room. XR Lab’s facilities prioritise flexibility and adaptability, designed in response to the ever-evolving technologies and educational needs of our times.
The architecture embodies the function of the building, creating a connection with virtual environments while inspiring the next generation of students.Giovanni Patania, Architect Co-Director of WindsorPatania explains.
The pioneering education environment integrates AI-powered technology such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality to offer a next-generation teaching and learning experience.
“XR Lab is a catalyst for ground-breaking ideas, a place to bring students and industry together to explore new ways of working, teaching and learning,” says Richard Stevenson, Group Director of Operations, Eastern Colleges Group.
A Tech-First Approach to Designing the Extended Reality Lab for Improved Learning Outcomes
The project brief was to create a space that drives innovation in learning, education, and research while attracting a diverse student body.
The interiors are specified with advanced cameras and microphones that relay information to the other areas, creating a dynamic and all-encompassing interactive educational experience.
XR Lab’s Lecture Theatre boasts various features including wall-to-wall screens, rear screens to virtually host external guests, a motion capture system, immersive sound, video, and 62 VR headsets on the side walls. This space also provides a “tables set-up” which promotes a culture of teamwork among students, encouraging real-life interactions amongst the high-tech facilities in the space.
A Pod-Shaped Structure for Energy-Efficiency
XR Lab is a retrofit of a building structure previously used as a workshop by engineering students.
Prior to the retrofitting, the building presented an outdated, light grey finish, and a large opening blocked by a roller shutter. Through extensive renovation efforts, the roller shutter was removed and replaced with a curtain wall to enhance the ingress of natural light into the hangar. The main benefit of this derived from the ability to contain thermal insulation solely to the size of the pod, making it the primary thermal envelope and thus avoiding the need to insulate the entire space thermally. Sustainable architectural lighting by PHOS was also integrated as part of the low-energy design.
Polished Plaster, Resulting in Sci-Fi Aesthetic
The exterior is finished with a high-spec, sustainable luxury polished plaster by Armourcoat, resulting in an enigmatic sci-fi presence.
The Social Impact Driven by The Extended Reality Lab
By driving innovation across the College Group’s education programmes and enabling training and collaboration with businesses and organisations in the region, XR Lab opens the path for exceptional opportunities for the local community to engage with and benefit from its advanced technologies.
WindsorPatania is a leading architectural firm that prioritizes sustainability and utilizes cutting-edge technology to deliver exceptional and innovative solutions across commercial, residential and education projects. Founded by Ryan Windsor and Giovanni Patania, their international team is committed to creating beautiful, environmentally responsible buildings and infrastructure. Their core values of integrity, inclusion, collaboration, and innovation guide our approach to every project.