Commissioned by the University Of Winchester, The Listening Space will be an innovative, small-scale meeting space which provides an unusual, liminal environment for experimental dialogue, inter-religious encounter, group work and creative thinking projects.
It will provide a new learning and research facility for staff, students and people from the local community. It will reflect the growing international profile of the Winchester Centre of Religions, Reconciliation and Peace, which will manage the Listening Space.
Activities in the Listening Space will be supported by training in facilitation and dialogue processes to enable participants to explore beyond conventional patterns of discourse and thought. The Listening Space will be a new type of space for a new type of conversation.
The brief demanded a built form with a strong landmark identity that also reflected a circular seating pattern for groups of either 8 or 16. Research indicated that group dialogue is improved when participants are seated at a lower height that encourages leaning forwards, as opposed to a more defensive posture when sat upright. This led to a solution where two stepped seating rings are sunk into the floor.
In order to keep the central space clear, shoes bags and coats are stored in a series of niches around the perimeter. These storage niches also incorporate a window that provides a source of light and ventilation, masked from view in order to avoid any visual distractions. The combination of these elements generates the star geometry in plan and section. Additional natural light is allowed into the space via a central oculus.
The project is intended to be a prototype capable of occupying various sites. This initial design is located on the edge of a gentle south facing slope accessed from an adjacent pathway within the universities King Alfred Campus. A flower garden is planned to surround the Listening Space, and this relationship with nature and the mathematics of flowers has supported the decagon polygon geometry.
Working with structural engineers and specialist steel fabricators, Listening Space is formed from an 8mm structural steel monocoque shell with a metallic specialist paint finish. Internally this structure is finished with a timber lining that mirrors the external form and accommodates the storage niches.