The Data Lab of Stavanger


May 27, 2019

With its extraordinary, quirky interior design, The Data Lab, situated in the University Library in Stavanger, was not only developed to be a learning space for data management. It is meant to become the favorite local meeting and study space that inspires creativity, curiosity and innovation.

Stavanger is a vivid student city in Norway, domain of many educational institutions and a research center. The University of Stavanger (UiS) provides its students with a campus that doubles as a ‘home away from home’ – due to large domestic traveling distances in Norway and the university’s student policy which aims for pleasant educational surroundings.  The recent opening of a campus hotel is central to this objective. Special fact: this non-profit hotel was a gift from an alumnus, and 100% of the earnings made by the hotel are donated to UiS. Another indicator of innovation is the transformation of the University Library into a place that caters to students – rather than books alone. Over the years, the ‘UniLib’ has been experimenting with different learning environments such as the Study Lab, a special nature-inspired ‘bird room’ to study. The demand for this new type of study space is constant. Since the University Library’s development of digitalization and data management, it was in need of a room that facilitates group study in various forms and sizes: a workshop space and venue for events. Moreover, the room should not only be inviting enough for people to spend time in, but also to come up with new ideas. This room should be open to staff, students and local friends.

In order to create a room people like to spend their time in, we need to create a bespoke experience.

Aat Vos Aat Vos Creative Director at includi

Examining experts’ theories

We examined two theories to develop the strategy and design concept for The Data Lab. First, according to Sir Ken Robinson, a speaker and author who has done extensive research on the impact of education environments on the effectiveness of education itself, the role of the context can never be underestimated. Or, in his own words: “If you run an education system based on standardization and conformity, which suppresses individuality, imagination and creativity, don’t be surprised if that’s what it does.” So, in order to help students get the best results, the look of the room matter, a lot. It should be creative, individual and different.

Second, according to the author Joe Pine (‘The Experience Economy’), the perception of time changes with the progression of economic value. As he stated in one of his recent lectures in Amsterdam and here, the main difference between time perception of service and time perception of an experience, is that a service saves time – and an experience is considered to be time well spent. Therefore, in order to create a room people like to spend time in, we need to create a bespoke experience.

An innovation playground

Not surprisingly, Ken’s and Joe’s mental wavelengths are very much in sync and amplify each other’s magnitude. In order to create that bespoke UiS ‘experience group study room’ we looked for local connections. We spent a week in Stavanger; we walked with its people and talked to them, checked out local hotspots, dove into the city’s cultural heritage, learned about the UiS faculties and together with the UiS Library team, selected and gathered all sorts of input for the room. The Data Lab (+/- 200 m2) turned into a hybrid ‘labscape’ with multiple deep-water submersible diving chambers, a fancy Victorian style (mind) control room, various group study options and presentation playgrounds – spiced with weird creatures in aquaria. The unprecedented interior design of this ‘secret space’ – built by the artisans of Artisan Tech – provokes the exploration of new worlds. You’re never exactly sure what’s going on, or what creative concoctions this lab might bring forth – and that is exactly the point.

Project credits

The Data Lab is a co-creation of includi (design concept, strategy, creative direction) & Artisan Tech – Damian Williams & team (development & production).
Photography: Marco Heyda