Gheorghe Asachi Technical University of Iași is the first university in Romania to transform its lecture halls into coworking spaces through student projects and architectural solutions competitions. This strategy began in 2016 and was finished at the beginning of 2023, when the last two of these spaces have been opened. Now, all students on campus have access to modern lecture halls with modular furniture, suited to individual study or group activities.
A jury selected the student projects that were implemented in modernising the campus spaces. The winning students were rewarded in cash for their work and had the chance to take part in the implementation process.
The last two study halls that have been renovated are in T1 – T2 and T11 dorms. As in the past, the funding was secured by the Ministry of Education: approximately 18,000 Euros for renovation and 9,000 Euros for furniture.
Students can use the two new coworking spaces to work collaboratively on projects or study individually. The furniture is fully modular and can be arranged as needed, the acoustics of the rooms is suited for studying, there are three lighting levels, and special paint was used to turn one of the walls into a blackboard. There is also a relaxation area with bean bags.
“Our students’ creativity has helped us on multiple occasions in reshaping University spaces, from the campus totems, to green spaces, and even T3 Amphitheatre in the Rectorate building. It was their idea to use 3,000 miniature student figurines to shape the face of Gheorghe Asachi. This is why we also asked for their help and ideas when we decided to modernise the reading halls on campus. The new spaces have to meet their needs and wishes,” said Professor Dan Cașcaval, TUIASI Rector.
The students also assisted during the implementation phase of the projects, saying that this experience has definitively changed their perception on how to match innovative with practical components.
“We wanted to give students modern reading halls, to offer an alternative to their dorm rooms. The projects proposed exceeded all our expectations. They were all very well-argued and feasible and we had a hard job picking a winner. We are very happy to finish this project, especially because the idea came from Professor Cezar Oprișan, who is no longer with us,” said Professor Lidia Gaiginschi, Vice-rector for Student Affairs.
Bogdan Budeanu, Head of Tudor Vladimirescu Campus, says that a big win of this modernisation process is that some of the coworking spaces used to be pubs that sometimes caused problems. Now, they all have study-appropriate lighting, lots of sockets for laptops, very good acoustics, and decorations worthy of modern architectural styles.
“We had a student visiting from Oxford University who was very impressed with these spaces, he said he wasn’t expecting something like this in a Romanian university. Today’s students need stimuli to learn, they aren’t like our parents, who would read at the candle light. Once you’re in a space such as this, you’ll surely spend your time in a productive way: studying or learning a new skill”, said Bogdan Budeanu.
The last project was won by George Claudiu Baciu, student at the Faculty of Architecture at TUIASI, and he was rewarded with 1,000 Euros. He said that the initial space was cold, didn’t inspire a chill working environment, and it didn’t facilitate neither study nor project work. So, he set out to change that through his proposed concept.
“I wanted to create a multifunctional, adaptable space, a work place where students can feel comfortable. The modular desks can be changed according to particular needs and there is also a work bar for those who need to work for a shorter amount of time. There are sockets and USB ports and also two computers for students who don’t have a laptop. One of the walls is painted in special blackboard paint, so it can be used for notes, formulae, diagrams, making this a dynamic and interactive study and work space”, said George Claudiu Baciu.
In the January exam session, the lecture hall was full almost daily. Students were either studying or networking, working on projects or mentoring sessions. The space is also used by student organisations for smaller conferences and also for relaxation and socialisation.