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Requalifying Old Place For New Uses – The E-Learning Café U.

Andrea Vieira, Pedro Leão Neto, Lígia Maria Ribeiro and Maria Sousa
Faculty of Architecture of University of Porto, University of Porto, Portugal


The Digital University Department of U.PORTO (IRICUP) has developed a research project that
comprises a hybrid environment for the academic community to study and socialize. The aim was to
recover an abandoned place and create a new environment, where technology plays an important role,
capable of improving and promote different kinds of communication between the academic community
and city dwellers. The new upgraded space, that before was an old building without any use, is now
open to the academic community and opens U. Porto to city.
This new space aims to facilitate the creation of integrated environments, for socializing and studying,
providing a new environment where social and learning activities are combined and where the whole
academic community can meet, exchange knowledge, share experiences and work in groups,
promoting inter-disciplinary exchange and innovation.

The global objective of this project – the E-Learning Café in U. Porto - is to start creating a set of new
dynamic learning spaces that combine social and study activities and that constitute a strategic
relational dimension for all the people working or studying in the University of Porto (U.Porto). The E-
Learning Café of Asprela is a hybrid space of study and social interaction - it’s a dynamic space with
conditions and environments that facilitate different types of communication and activities to all

In this context, the design of this space has employed ICT to create a rich communicational and
learning environment, i.e., wireless networking, access to collaborative software, power source for
mobile computing devices and other functionalities. Thus the program of this E-Learning Café and its
spatial configuration and internet site aims to encourage several types of group interaction, to promote
the interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge and experience and to offer people a set of diverse social
and cultural events such as courses, readings, performances, workshops, etc.

The transformation and renovation of the E-Learning Café building has already finished some time ago
and the first version of the E-Learning Café site (http://elearningcafé has been online since
January 2008. Up to now, the site has been used for the following tasks:
(1) to communicate and simulate the new E-Learning Café design; (2) to announce the organizational
structure and program contents of the E-Learning Café and (3) to test the opinion of the potential users
of the E-Learning Café space with a short questionnaire which visitors can complete after seeing the
explanation and simulation of the proposed design.

The paper first describes the strategy for the new design and requalification of its pre-existence - the
older building and its interior space -, and explains the incorporation of some important ICT
functionalities into the design of this new E-Learning Café. It then analyzes the results of a post-
occupancy evaluation of that space. The basic information for this document was acquired from (1) a
questionnaire given to the users of the E-Learning Café and from (2) applying space syntax
methodology to study the relation between different interior spaces of the building, their spatial
integration and how people socialize and behaved when using them.

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