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Student Housing Projects Can Make Room For Ideation Spaces


Robert Blackwell is tired of seeing abandoned game rooms on college campuses.

“I see far too many lonely pool tables in windowless rooms that are nowhere near the heart of campus,” Blackwell said. “Play is so important to keeping your mind and body fresh, but that kind of game room is really just wasted space — it’s not the right approach today.”

Blackwell, who is the CEO of Killerspin, a company that furnishes table tennis equipment and experiences, has a different idea for how to build play into the lives of college students: multipurpose spaces where students come to work individually or in groups, get a bite to eat and challenge each other to table tennis matches. He thinks that rolling each of these functions into one could free up square footage while also boosting campus happiness and nurturing new friendships between students.

“This is not just a sterile cafeteria, or a quiet library or a game room,” Blackwell said. “The processes of work and play, relaxation and ideation all go hand in hand, and this type of space is where all of them can find a home.”

Blackwell suggested that student housing designers place ideation spaces in student centers, near dining halls and in dormitories: Proximity to where students live and spend their days is a priority. The furniture, he said, should not be desks or carrels but tables and couches — and it should leave room for places to play.

Play is at the core of a successful ideation space, and table tennis equipment can provide students a way to exercise, compete and relieve stress, Blackwell said. He said playing table tennis burns more calories per hour than yoga or leisure cycling, and that it stimulates the parts of the brain that control concentration and quick decision-making and relieves areas that contribute to stress.

With the growing concerns around mental health and isolation on college campuses, Blackwell said playing a few rounds of table tennis can not only boost happiness by releasing endorphins, but also combat isolation by forging connections between students who might not otherwise meet.


“These may be freshmen who are living on their own for the first time in their lives,” Blackwell said. “Especially for foreign students who may never have lived in the U.S., having a space like this, and having a ping-pong table, can make them feel at home.”

Beyond surface-level interactions, Blackwell said ideation spaces create an ideal environment for the collaborative thinking and problem-solving that can lead to new business ideas.

“Startups are born in these kind of ideation spaces, with students networking and new ideas flowing,” he said.

On an economic level, these spaces can save student housing projects space by combining all of these functions in one. Rather than offering a coworking space, a snack bar and a game room, Blackwell said, campus designers can plan to offer all of these amenities within a single space, where students can socialize.

“Doing schoolwork is only a small part of why people attend college,” Blackwell said. “Ideation spaces can create a hub for campus culture and attract new students.”

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Killerspin. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.