University Commons student space design competition: multifunctional room

Jeremy interviews Teressa Yu, who recently submitted one of the winning designs (for the multifunctional room) in the University Commons student space design competition.



YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Jeremy (he/him) is in his final year of a MA in Communications and Technology (MACT) at the U of A. When he's not writing a paper or reading a book, you can find him on some of Edmonton's river valley trails, or trying to get sendy on his skis.

The U of A recently held a student space design competition to best support the student experience in the new University Commons building. The winners were selected by key leaders from various areas of the institution, and in this three-part series, I (Jeremy) sat down with each winner to learn more about their winning design and why they participated.

The third and final installment is with Teressa Yu, who submitted the winning design for the multifunctional room.

Teressa is a 3rd-year BCom student majoring in Human Resources. Alongside her studies, she works as a dental sterilization assistant and graphic designer. In her spare time, she enjoys filming, outdoor adventures and teaching drums. She dreams of working with creative teams in the entertainment or tech industry.

Teressa Yu

Teressa Yu

What are you studying at the university, and what inspired you to participate in the competition?

I am currently pursuing a Business Commerce degree with a major in Human Resources. While my professional and academic experiences are more tailored to marketing and administration, I have always had a passion for interior design and space optimization. When I was little, my stencil interior activity book was my most prized possession. As I got older, my friends and I took on our own construction projects for fun. When I saw the new building this year, I was captivated by the way the exterior achieved both a historical and modern aesthetic. I've always wanted to meet the people behind amazing architectural ideas, so the Undergraduate Newsletter announcement of the design competition felt like a pastry fresh out of the oven. My years of undergrad have been blessed with some of the best idea-sharing, dream-making conversations, and I felt like the design competition would be no less inspiring.   

Why did you choose to design the multifunctional room?

I chose the multifunctional room because it is the type of space that I use most. As a volunteer for various speech and leadership organizations and a lover of attractive coworking spaces, I felt like I had a good understanding of the needs and wants of the common users. I'm always exploring different public studying spaces because I need to host various events for both small and large groups. These explorations have resulted in many far-fetched dreams of the layout of the future spaces I want to create. For my business friends, charity organizations and my own productivity, I wanted to create a room that would provide an environment that consistently inspired and recharged users regardless of whether they spent a few minutes in the room or an entire day.

multifunctional room

Teressa's mood board for her winning design. Submissions will influence the final design of the space but may not be identical to what was submitted.

Can you describe some of the key features of your winning design and how they support the purpose of the space?

The purpose I attributed to the space is adaptive learning and inspiration. I envisioned a space that would be fun to study in for short days at the university and also rejuvenating for those long days we all have. I made an effort to follow my goal of making the space a rechargeable environment by sectioning spaces for rest, productivity and observation. Some key features of my design include adjustable drop leaf tables, a lobby for storage, powerful presentation walls that give users the opportunity to dream big and an enclosed story-telling zone to detox mental burdens. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced during the design process, and how did you overcome them?

I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could accommodate different learning styles. While it's usually implied that a multifunctional space sees lots of interaction and interdependence, some people enjoy moments of privacy and independence in the collaborative setting (completing a task alone while enjoying the white noise). With this in mind, I suggested the use of translucent screens that could be attached to any end of a drop leaf table. These screens act as silent indicators within the room that simultaneously welcome even the most independent learners into the room.    

What impacts do you think a space like this will have on students?

The inspiration behind naming the room the "Honeycomb" comes from the fact that university students are "busy bees" and the fact that we need more intentional spaces to revel in our hard work and harvest. I think the honeycomb space creates an environment that makes work fun and makes learning a "now" thing rather than a "wait to apply it in the real-world" thing. It's a positive space where people will see learning as a means of clarity, energy and a normal state of being rather than an obstacle to their social life.  

What are your future aspirations, and how did this experience contribute to your goals?

I've always felt captivated by structural designs. I am fascinated by how the most subtle details can psychologically affect the way we perceive things. In my future career, I want to help create and facilitate environments that help people develop their skills and grow towards new possibilities. I want to work with large entertainment teams like Netflix or groups that build and experiment with technologies. I wasn't sure if I would get the chance to observe any of these expert teams in my undergraduate years, but the space design competition experience gave me a spot at a round table that I didn't know I could be a part of. Thanks to the experience, I've gained a new understanding around the time, effort, patience and detail it takes to see projects to completion. I feel better equipped to bring my own tangible and intangible tools to my future teams.