Jones Architecture is researching design and planning for learning environments. Stand-alone departmental buildings – and the academic siloes they enabled – are increasingly rare. In their place are buildings and complexes of buildings that bring together multiple departments under one roof. Communal spaces become essential in this model, to facilitate unexpected interactions. Broad hallways, shared atria and pockets of break-out space, collaborative work environments, group meeting and study rooms, and shared media resources give an architectural framework to this new approach to academic life. Faculty offices may be mixed across departments, or may be configured to allow regular rotation as research agendas shift and different departmental configurations become necessary.
At the level of the classroom, we are seeing an equally flexible and integrated approach to learning. New teaching models focusing on group work and collaboration require spaces that are robustly flexible, with architecture, furniture and technology seamlessly integrated to allow different spatial configurations over the course of the day, the semester and the year. Within a given class period, faculty may want to shift the pedagogy from a lecture format, to small group work, to a seminar configuration, and back to lecture. The infrastructure, design, and furniture all need to support these pedagogic shifts. Even as new classroom models emerge, others established decades ago remain widely used. The case study classroom established at Harvard Business School in the 1950s is as functional today as it was at its conception. Similarly, lab spaces based on the mid-twentieth century rational lab model remain appropriate for contemporary science research. New technologies and updated finishes bring these spaces up-to-date, rendering render them productive and valuable components of many schools’ learning space portfolios.
The image above is a programming / planning diagram for an Academic Complex at Norwich University. The complex is comprised of renovations to three existing buildings and an addition to one of the three.