Inspiring the next generation at the University of Plymouth

With a task to bring back activity to and reflect the creative nature of the Roland Levinsky Building, design students at the University of Plymouth have created a pop-up style space with a floor of our Luxury Vinyl Tiles inspired by fragments of broken glass.

  • Location: Plymouth (UK)
  • Sector: Education
  • Product Category: Luxury vinyl tiles
  • Surface: 210 m²

Fragment Inspired Floors

The ground floor atrium of the Roland Levinsky Building, home to the University of Plymouth’s School of Art, Design and Architecture, needs to support a mix of activities and encourage use throughout the day. So, with a brief to create a reception and café area that would bring back activity and provide a destination for students, academics, staff and visitors; the estates team challenged Interior Design course students to transform the space.


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Engaging key users

Part of the brief was to reflect the creative nature of the courses housed within the building and so Jonathan Forster, a design podcaster, interior designer and Award Leader of the Spatial and Interior Design degree courses at the university, worked with a group of final year students to deliver a pop-up style space.

Jonathan Forster explains more: “I thought it was important to engage the key users – students themselves – in the creation of the area so that we could create a design which felt right from a student perspective. We put together a design team of third-year students responsible for the finishes and furniture.

“The café is housed within a reclaimed shipping container as we thought it was a nice way of reflecting Plymouth’s maritime history as well as bringing a pop-up style flavour to the space made popular by street food markets and retail concepts such as Box Park.”

Comfort through contrast

The interior of the Roland Levinsky Building has an industrial style interior featuring a grey concrete floor and exposed electrics and HVAC. The design of the café zone aimed to contrast this by providing a high level of visual comfort, making the area a natural draw for users of the building, whether that’s meeting before a lecture, checking out exhibitions in the gallery or catching the latest screening at the Jill Craigie Cinema.

The flooring formed an important element of the design and as the café area is situated within a large atrium it provided an opportunity to make a design statement when viewed from floors above. Café seating, meeting tables and softer breakout space make the area a destination for users and the flooring supports the area’s intent to deliver welcoming comfort in contrast to the rest of the building’s industrial feel.

Student designed

Jonathan and the students worked closely with us to choose floor finishes, selecting a range of solutions from the Luxury Vinyl Tiles collection. Inspired by the Studio Moods bespoke concept, but eventually selecting Moduleo 55 Tiles and Moduleo 55 Expressive floors, the student design team used colour choice and texture to bring visual comfort.

Jordan Chidgey was part of the student design team and was responsible for the design of the layout:

“I wanted to create a space that contrasted with its existing environment while remaining in-keeping with the industrial feel of the building. Initially, I took the brief quite literally, with the idea of a breakout space triggering thought processes around the idea of breaking. I looked into the theme of fracturing and shards of broken glass, developing a range of layouts.

“Using harsh edges allowed us to maintain that ‘rough’ feel, with colour and texture providing relief from the brutalist concrete. In terms of zoning and how the space flows, the design features large areas of colour to allow users to distinguish between multiple seating spaces and the shapes within the layout also work as directional guides.”

The entire student team selected the final colours and textures for the area, building a palette of two pastel Desert Crayola colours – 46616 and 46696, Desert Stone 46915 and the tropical wood strip effect of Expressive Shades in the rich and dark tone of 62290.

Flex Pro installed

The Luxury Vinyl Floors were installed initially using Flex Pro, a self-adhesive underlay that allows for fast installation and easy uplift without damage to the concrete subfloor, important for any future changes of use for the space. Saving time and money during installation, Flex Pro provides an immediate transformation that’s instantly walkable.

Part way through the project, Flex Pro was switched with a top-secret development underlay that provides the same functionality, but with the added benefit of being completely recyclable without separation from the floor. Taking us a step closer towards product circularity, the underlay ensures that our made in Belgium 50% recycled content modular vinyl floors are easier to recover and repurpose.

Universally approved

With a design that lives up to the brief to create a destination reception and café that reflected the creative nature of courses held within the University of Plymouth’s Roland Levinsky Building, the space has been universally approved by students, staff, academics and visitors.

Jonathan Forster concludes: “The overall design has been well received by students and other users. The spaces are being used in the way we imagined and the whole area feels more welcoming and visually appealing. It’s neater, tidier and has a stronger impact. The floor forms a strong element of the design, helping to define the cafe and create a memorable experience for visitors.”

“The spaces are being used in the way we imagined and the whole area feels more welcoming and visually appealing. It’s neater, tidier and has a stronger impact.”