What's New With Campus Design?

“Campus interior design is moving away from institutional toward more of a corporate commercial model, and that is across the board in terms of interior development,” says Frank Campbell, III, AIA, IFMA, an associate with HuntonBrady Architects in Orlando.“By that I mean institutions are learning from the corporate world. They’re absorbing more and more of the latest trends in corporate planning.”

The reason for this movement is twofold. First,of course, is the technology revolution, which has pushed learning out of the classroom and onto the entire campus. Students need a place to plug and play — wherever they are on campus. And, as the wireless revolution takes hold, this will change to having a place of comfort for computing.

The technology revolution also includes an audio-visual component.“It used to be that there was an outlet, a whiteboard and a rolling cart that you would move from classroom to classroom,” says Campbell. “Now, every classroom is being fitted with overhead document cameras to project an 8 1/2-by-11-in. piece of paper onto a whiteboard. The same is true with lighting control systems that adjust from the podium for better multimedia presentations. Classrooms are being fitted with ceiling-mounted projectors that are driven from the podium. All of these high-end elements originally came from the boardroom — from the boardroom to the classroom.”

The second reason for this movement is the changing student population. No longer are students classically defined as 18-year-olds coming to college straight from high school. Rather, a large chunk of today’s students include the middle aged, who are returning to school for job retraining and new careers. “The typical institutional environment that works for an 18-year-old coming right out of high school doesn’t work for a professional who’s been in business for 20 years,” says Campbell.

What does this new campus, being designed on a corporate model, actually look like?

In Transition Space

St. Louis-based Kromm Rikimaru & Johansen (KRJ) recently completed a 2,500-sq.-ft. renovation of the student concourse in the Arts and Sciences building for Mineral Area College, near Farmington, Mo. It was part of a $6-million project that included major renovations to an adjacent building.

The concourse was an important part of the project in that it changed from a place that students pass through to a place where students gather for learning outside the classroom. “We’re trying to get the interior environment as conducive to learning as possible for the community college student,” says David Kromm, AIA, a principal with KRJ. “In that process, in this project, we provided power and data lines around the furniture groupings for students to bring in laptops. And we designed stand-up computer stations that are equipped with computers for students to use.”

This project was made all the easier to accomplish in that it was encouraged by Dr. Terry Barnes, the college’s president. “He wanted to upgrade the feel of the space toward more of a corporate-type atmosphere,” says Kromm. “We worked together toward that end with furnishings and carpeting.” Now the skylit, two-story atrium space is a major focal point of that building.

In the Classroom Building

HuntonBrady recently completed a 59,927-sq.-ft., one-story classroom facility for Florida Metropolitan University Corinthian Colleges in Orlando.

“You enter into a professional lobby that could be the lobby of an office building,” says Campbell. “Off of the lobby is a series of classrooms, and visually, the classrooms are similar to corporate training rooms. There is a large break room that one would begin to call a cyber café. It actually feels more like a coffeehouse / café environment than an institutional lunch room. All of these amenities are very similar to a corporate training center.”

Support space, such as break rooms and copy/fax areas, also were given a corporate feel and, as a result, are noninstitutional.

Campbell notes that campus design is being borrowed from corporate America in terms of retail. “Places like Starbucks and Barnes and Noble have had a terrific influence,” he says. “People’s perception of what a lunch room or a coffee room or a library could look like has changed. No longer are we building a library or a lunch room. We’re building a library/lunch room.”

And, design is being borrowed from corporate America in terms of security. “No longer do you walk into a classroom building and go straight to your classroom,” notes Campbell. “Now you walk into a lobby that’s manned and staffed by a concierge person who is an information-type person but who also functions somewhat as security.”

Finally, says Campbell, design is being borrowed from corporate America in terms of flexibility. “The general emphasis on flexibility is a huge thought change.” No longer do administrators build academic departments that never change. “As workers’ demands on training increases, universities have to offer more and more diverse programs, and they have to be in a position to be flexible. It costs millions and takes time to tear down and remodel a classroom building. If you design it right in the first place, you can do your renovation in a weekend.”

In the Residence Hall

In August, Los Angeles-based DMJM Design completed a two-facility housing complex at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. The $18-million, 151,000-sq.-ft. project boasts 482 beds, notes Bob Perry, AIA, associate vice president in the firm’s Washington office. The Potomac River complex is designed for sophomores, for which the client wanted a slightly larger residence hall.

In addition, the architect studied both the public and private side of the complex and how it would fit into the campus, creating both kinds of spaces in a variety of sizes. This is similar to the corporate world, where work is accomplished in a variety of group sizes, some more private than others.

“Each “L”-shaped building has two wings that are made up of three- and four-story floors,” says Perry. “The outward piece needed to be located in such a way that students in both wings plus students who don’t live there would have access to it. Therefore, it was placed at the knuckle of the ‘L.’ It offers a convenient way to get into the building, a convenient way to get into each of the wings, and a convenient way for nonresidents to come into the building and interact without decreasing the security or privacy of the residents.”

Inside the wings, the rooms themselves are broken up into four-person suites. Each floor has a study room outfitted with soft furniture, wallcoverings and carpet. In addition, each floor has a community gathering space near the elevator that can be used to build community and/or as a public meeting space.

This design works, says Perry, because, “The social side of university life is as important in terms of the educational process as the academic side. I think it’s important to create social spaces within a university — and a variety of different ones that offer one- and two-group learning spaces, eight- or nine-group learning spaces and larger ones, like football stadiums.”

Kromm agrees: “I think that one of the issues in the corporate world is that people don’t tend to sit in groups of 30 and listen to someone talk. People work in small groups in almost any kind of office. The college experience needs to be as close to what they’re going to face in the real world as possible.