Building Bridges

Each summer we undertake projects to update the Union buildings and keep things fresh. Last year we improved the entrance to the main SUSU building on Highfield campus, and I think you’ll agree that it’s had a huge impact providing a fantastic space in the heart of campus for students to meet and relax, while providing a suitable gateway into the Union and all its facilities.

This summer we’re going to be redeveloping “The Bridge”, our café bar at the heart of campus.

We’ve identified a need to provide a social space for a more mature audience, and have been particularly engaging with the postgraduate and international student community through focus groups and discussions. This space will be available for all, taking all the aspects of the Bridge which we love, and enhancing them to create something which helps us remain relevant to the wider student community.

We are keen to make this work as a comfortable place to eat, drink, relax and socialise during the day so we will be improving the furniture, the general ambiance of the room and of course the food and drink.  In the evening, we want to make it work much better as a place for informal entertainments.  Already popular as a space for our societies’’ events and jazz/comedy we will create a larger more central stage much better control of the daylight and acoustic improvements.

Alongside the physical development within the cost of the project we have also been given the opportunity to undertake work on the brand, to give the space a really strong identity. We’ll be working over the coming months on this brand.

This is where I would like your input and ideas. I’d like to know what you think of the current brand (if you think there even is one), and what you think would be a strong brand for the space moving forward.

Which unique or standout features should the brand focus on?

What should the space be known for?

Should it still be called the Bridge? Or is there another name which would suit the space?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’ll keep you update with progress on this project throughout the summer.




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28 Comments on "Building Bridges"

  1. Sam
    09/05/2012 at 2:39 pm Permalink

    Please don’t change the food. It’s lovely in there.

  2. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 10:45 am Permalink

    Some of the work over the summer will be on improving current kitchen facilities, so hopefully we’ll be able to make the food even better.

    What in particular do you like about the current food offering?

  3. Sam
    09/05/2012 at 3:16 pm Permalink

    As you say Sam, the Bridge has always been a nice chilled out venue for the more alternative activities that take place in SUSU; Jazz Lounge, Comedy, Quiz and Curry to name just a few. I hear there are ideas to make the dj / mic set up more integral and central to the venue and is something I’d support. I also like how there is a small stage for events in the corner which is good for things such as AGMs and Election Results.

    The place has a good image now I feel, with the alternating nights for every day of the week which tend to attract a fairly regular group of people week in, week out. At times there does seem to be a difficulty in whether this should be set up for a live venue or a chilled location for sit down activities. I feel the latter suits the place better. More does need to be done to publicise The Bridge for day time events, as evening / night events tend to do well, but it is often fairly empty at other points of the day.

    As for the name, I think it works well alongside all the current branding and should not be of the most major concern.

  4. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 10:48 am Permalink

    Thanks for your comments. On publicising the Bridge, what works for you when it comes to advertising? What do you think is the best way to reach out to students who may not know about, but would enjoy the space?

    On the branding, working on the brand is all included in the costs of the architects we’re working with, so its more a bonus that we have some resource to look at it, rather than the core of what we’re doing.

    What do you like about the current brand, or do you think there even is really a brand, or strong identity to the space?

  5. Sam
    12/05/2012 at 1:54 am Permalink

    I think just more social media promotion. I know we have a Quiz and Curry page but it’s not well utilised. Also we need to get into those niche elements that may enjoy The Bridge such as certain societies.

    During the daytime I think people are just not that aware that yes you are able to go into the Bridge, sit down and have a chat and maybe get some food. I think it serves as a sort of gap between The Stags (as a pub) and The Cafe.

    Identity is always something hard to forge and often comes with time. As I’ve said before I like the quiet and casual environment it offers, and how everything is always quite relaxed. People go there because they want to, not because they get the impression that they should do for some reason.

  6. Sam
    09/05/2012 at 3:48 pm Permalink

    Heat it so it isn’t so bloody freezing in the evening!

  7. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 10:50 am Permalink

    The final design is looking to have blinds which can be taken down during the evening ,which will go some way to both controlling the light for evening events, and helping to keep some of the heat in.

    Hopefully having the space more “full” will help as well.

    Definitely something we’ll feed back.

  8. Sam
    09/05/2012 at 6:15 pm Permalink

    I think that the ‘Bridge’ name should be kept, it reflects strongly on the universities maritime and marine expertise especially in research (the NOC and Ship Science) some of which was lost with the dolphin logo, also the view out of the windows is pretty similar to that off the bridge of a big ship, across the green sea of Highfield campus.

    double glazing would be a good start, even when its full the bridge rarely seems to warm up in winter or is like a greenhouse in the summer. The acoustics/speaker placement also need improving so that you can hear what the person next to you is saying, or what the quizmaster is saying without it reverberating off every surface and creating a ton of white noise. Another nice touch would be them serving the same range of beverages as in the stags in addition to the more ‘exotic’ ones they currently have (some of which are fantastic). I’ve also been informed to state that the Naan bread fold should also be brought back…

  9. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 10:54 am Permalink

    Thanks for your thoughts. Double Glazing is something i’d of loved to have been able to put in, but unfortunately the costs were far beyond our budget (as essentially all 3 of the walls are glass).

    Do you feel there are many other spaces across campus that in name or identity reflect the Universities maritime links?

    The food and drink offering will definitely play a key role in developing the brand, and I’ll be sure to pass those comments on.

  10. Sam
    09/05/2012 at 9:58 pm Permalink

    New litter tray and milk bowl please.

  11. Sam
    10/05/2012 at 12:09 am Permalink

    I think the name should stay – even if it is changed students who remember it in its previous incarnation are still likely to refer to it as ‘The Bridge’. Changing the name would seem like change for the sake of change as opposed to improvement.

    It has always seemed to me to be a little… Spartan, possibly something could be done to make the aesthetics of the interior of the room less… harsh? Having said that, the light and views provided by the windows are fantastic, and would not want to be blocked.

    The current brand of a slightly more formal space than the Stags (although still casual) is a good one, I think the emphasis needs to be on the atmosphere as opposed to the drinking, which seems to be more of the case in the Stags.

    Well.. these are my thoughts, others may disagree!

  12. Sam
    10/05/2012 at 10:36 am Permalink

    The Bridge has only been called this since the Union rebrand. Before the silly rebrand decided students were too stupid to deal with more than 2 words (i.e. ‘The Cube’, ‘The Shop’, ‘The Union’, ‘The Stags’, ‘The Bridge’, ‘The Cafe’) it was called The Bridge Bar which actually told people what it was rather than the rather vacuous name ‘The Bridge’ which always conjures up images of a bridge to cross a river and not a Cafe/ Bar venue. Will you please consider returning some semblance of what it is to it’s name and breaking from the moronic two single syllable word branding?

  13. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 11:01 am Permalink

    The aim of the new branding was to bring a little consistency across all our outlets, and its interesting that that style of naming really came from the way students have referred to the Bridge and the Stags during there time here. We finally just put the names people had been using on the locations, which is the reason why they’re not called “the Bar”, or “the Pub”.

    We’ve also received a fairly clear directive from the University (who are 1/4 funding this project) that they would prefer it if the space does not have the word Bar as a part of the name. This is with a nod at creating an inclusive space which does not exclude people who would not normally go to a “Bar”, when actually the space is much more than that.

    The most important thing is that the space itself has a clear identity, what ever the name is, and that the brand comes from more than just a name, but the culture of the space.

  14. Sam
    10/05/2012 at 5:29 pm Permalink

    The name is fine as it is, I guess it helps that many of us that use it probably knew it as Bridge Bar first, but I think it’s nice that it shows some kind of integration between the various places on campus (and, let’s face it, no-one has an issue knowing what ‘The Stags’ is!). What would probably be better is just publicising the space more, on many occasions I have arranged to have group meetings in the Bridge, only to be told people don’t know where it is!

    In terms of using the space, it is quite sociable and has a significantly different atmosphere to the Stags- which I think is one of its strengths. In the daytime is it a good place to both work and socialise and, as noted above, the large windows make the most of the view, which is lovely on a sunny day. Hopefully, ‘controlling for daylight’ as you explain above Sam, wouldn’t diminish this, since it is definitely one of its most appealing features. The furniture could be updated and a little more comfortable. The food is generally very good and it is one of the only places on campus where there is a decent number of reasonably healthy options. Any change in the menu should only really look to improve what is already offered rather than making the food more similar to that in the Cafe and the Piazza.

  15. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 11:05 am Permalink

    It’d love to know our thoughts on how best to reach out to people and promote the bridge. What do you think is the best way to let people know what’s on offer.

    With regards to controlling daylight, we’re looking at introducing blinds which can come down when needed, but importantly go away easily. They’re really for use during evening events, when you don’t want so much light flooding into the room. During the day we definitely want to fake full advantage of the great views.

    Are there any particular parts to the menu that you like, and is there anything not there that you think should be. I feel that food is a key part of its identity, and so I’d love to hear your thought of what could be provided in an ideal world.

  16. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 2:59 pm Permalink

    Not knowing where the bridge is, is a common thing I have found too. I’m willing to bet that there are other places in the SU that people don’t know where they are aswell. What might help fix this is if Union maps were handed out at the beginning of the academic year (similar to the style of map you get in big shopping centres) to help people find things and a wall map being prominently located on each floor. This might help students not only find ‘The Bridge’ but also everything else on offer at ‘The Union’ and thus engage better with SUSU. Just a thought.

  17. Sam
    10/05/2012 at 5:31 pm Permalink

    I think it’s less of a case of rebranding as it is of general student participation. Currently, I get the general feel that there is only one core of students who actually go into the Students Union buildings to actually sit down and spend time there (for example I only pop in or out most of the time). One way to generally get students more interested and active might be to get everyone to contribute a tiny amount of their time in passing which would be feasible e.g. here’s a crazy idea – why dont we set up a GIGATINTIC puzzle in the bridge which the whole student body passing by could contribute to complete even if it’s a single piece. Okay that may sound a bit naive etc but that might be an interesting general direction to head towards.

  18. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 11:07 am Permalink

    This is definitely what we’re aiming improvements of the bridge towards. We’re trying to provide a range of spaces across the Union that will suit a wide range of students.

  19. Sam
    10/05/2012 at 6:09 pm Permalink

    Excuse my prattling on , but just got a couple more ideas about events:
    1) How about an open mic speakers podium which could be an ongoing, open-all-day event where any student can come and voice an opinion wheather formal or informal on any university- related matter (I got the idea from the Hyde Park speaker’s corner)

    2) An informal lecture series where students could nominate their lecturers who they think the wider student community would like to listen to informally on a hot topic.

    Just saying stuff that I, as a not-so-regular Bridge-goer, would find stimulating and exciting.

  20. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 11:09 am Permalink

    I really like the idea of open lectures, and speakers corner style events. I’m a big fan of TED talks, and feel the space would suit that style of 10-15 minute talks.

    When do you think would be the best times to run these sorts of talks?

  21. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 11:20 am Permalink

    Maybe during lunchtime? The SUSU cafe always seems to be busy and I think people forget that The Bridge do food and really good coffees.

  22. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 11:22 am Permalink

    Its actually surprising how busy the bridge can get over lunch, however it would be the sort of thing you could run in a section of it.

  23. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 11:25 am Permalink

    I really liked The Bridge when it had the proper cocktail menu. I feel as though it’s lost its identity as a classier (relative term) drinking establishment in campus because the cocktails were taken away.

    Perhaps more could be done to make it a place to pre-drink before Cube events? Much like Quids In at Orange Rooms (tickets for raffle that you get on the door).

    For daytime, perhaps The Bridge could have a small range of sandwiches etc. so you can “grab and go” as it were? The Sandwich stop booth (I can’t think of the actual word I want) that used to be in reception was pretty useful if you were in a rush. Maybe The Bridge could make the link between that and the Shop or SUSU cafe which often have really long queues – the ones in the shop move you through really quickly but sometimes just the sight of the queue is enough to put someone off.

  24. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 4:34 pm Permalink

    I don’t think the name should be changed. The Bridge is a great venue, I think it’s only problem is lack of awareness of what’s going on. (I like the termly planners which have been around this year saying what’s on each day – maybe put these in the freshers packs?)

    I think the cocktails should be brought back in the evenings to give the Bridge more of an identity. The bar team need to make sure the necessary ingredients are all in stock, and that enough people are trained and confident to do them. I also think that it needs to be publicised that the bridge have a different variety of drinks to the stags, e.g. rekorderlig cider, all the different spirits like the absolut flavours, and hopefully the cocktails- a drinks menu and prices could be made available online (on the Facebook group and the SUSU website). Also the SUSU website could do with more promotion – on the uni computers when the home page is sussed could there be a tab on the browser for

    Also I found this link through twitter, but I couldn’t see any link to it on facebook. there are way more students on facebook than twitter so this type of stuff should really be published on there if you want more of a response.

  25. Sam
    11/05/2012 at 6:11 pm Permalink

    Would it be possible to give The Bridge and each of the other venues their own webpages on the SUSU website to help them develop their own identities within the branding structure?

    I would also caution against too rigid an adherence to a single brand because this inevitably will damage the ability of individual venues to distinguish themselves from one another and attract a different clientelle within the student population. To my mind The bridge is the ‘classiest’ of the Unions venues (if you can call it that) so fitting it under the generic brand straight jacket makes it lose it’s appeal.

    Sorry I know a second post but this just came to my head.

  26. Sam
    14/05/2012 at 12:48 am Permalink

    Hey! One topic I would like to flag up is to do with the poker society (PokSoc) hosting its poker events at the bridge bar.

    When I first came to Southampton Uni, one of the first societies I joined was the poker society. It was a thriving society that had at times out grown the bridge bar venue, often welcoming over 100 people to its fortnightly events. This may have been helped by the numerous SUSU posters around campus, which advertised society events(like poksoc) available for students to get involved with. The venue of poksoc continued to be the status quo until last year, when it was denied permission to use the bridge bar. If the bridge bar was being filled by another event on these poker nights then that might justify why poksoc was denied permission. However, this has not been the case at all, I have personally looked on many poksoc nights and it’s virtually empty. Is there any hope for poksoc regaining access to the bridge bar of the future? What issues might prohibit the bridge bar being used for the poker society?

    (Another thing: I really like the food at the bridge bar, in particular they do great salads)

  27. Sam
    15/05/2012 at 11:39 am Permalink

    If I could request one thing is keep how beautifully light it is in the day! My friends and I would often go in for lunch and it was really nice to be in such an airy environment. I think the lunchtime lectures thing are a good idea, maybe one lunchtime a week or something.


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