March/April 06
Issue 14


this issue...

Campuses are Learning Places

Creating Intentional
Learning Environments

Classroom ABCs

Reviewing What We've Learned

What's New



Campuses are Learning Places

This may seem a patently obvious statement, but recent experiences — places we have seen, discussions we have engaged in, and writings that we have encountered — reinforce increasing recognition in academe that every campus facility can foster learning opportunities — if well considered and well designed.

In this issue, Arthur considers ideas that will continue to influence learning across campus, and Charles describes design characteristics that facilitate learning in classrooms.

We also include the perspective of a retro-view from Dick Dober, who revisits a viable approach and rationale for stewarding these learning places.

George Mathey

If you have reactions or ideas to share, please let us know what you think by e-mailing:

Creating Intentional
Learning Environments


At most colleges and universities, classrooms are only 5 percent to 10 percent of the total space on campus — that's a small amount of space dedicated to teaching and learning — particularly when many institutions think of classrooms as their primary teaching venue. Laboratories, studios, offices, libraries, and student residences are among other learning spaces — formal and informal.

I’d like to talk about “intentional learning environments” beyond the classroom — but I want to move away from how the term is commonly used today. A Google or Yahoo search of the phrase “intentional learning environments” almost always comes back with another phrase: “computer supported” as a prefix. There are other intentional learning environments that provide non-classroom and non-laboratory experiences.

A coffee kiosk at the College of Wooster is operated by students — a great learning experience for students and an easy way to distribute this type of food service to buildings that might be distant from dining and student union resources.

Students at a number of campuses are involved in all aspects of sustainability from simple recycling programs to campus life dorm sales, food scrap composting, pollution and prevention, energy use, and transportation.

Colleges and universities are moving towards having a complete wireless campus — Columbia University and the College of St. Benedict, for example — making learning and communication possible anywhere on campus — indoor and out.

On some campuses there are chalkboards or whiteboards in corridors or lounge areas, and even outdoors (at Carleton College), to support the spontaneous learning moment.

Many campuses have “living/learning” residences that combine housing with academic programs and academic support spaces.

Faculty offices are multipurpose teaching, research, and administrative spaces and essential environments for learning, either on a one-to-one basis or in small groups. Libraries are creating small-group studies and informal collaboration spaces where students work and learn together.

Middle Tennessee State has an outdoor astronomical plaza where the patterns on the ground and the upright sculptures are all designed to teach or to be used in experiments about the earth's rotation, planet and star locations, and moon and sun characteristics.

St. Lawrence University hires students to work side-by-side with the directors (project shepherds) of design and construction projects for new and renovated buildings. The students are involved in the process from the early stages of facility programming, through design and construction.

The Swarthmore College campus is an arboretum with most trees and shrubs on campus named — it is both an outdoor lab and museum.

The first year experience — usually a seminar — can have a residential component on some campuses where students in a particular seminar also live in the same residence allowing discussions and interaction to continue beyond the formal meeting.

The student union at Gettysburg College is run primarily by the students, and is an opportunity to learn about organization, funding, budgeting, politics, and consensus.

The general operations of a campus often have students involved, from grounds upkeep and maintenance, to technology and networking. Students work at the computer center help desk, they tutor, and they are involved in community service, student government and a myriad other activities in which learning occurs.

Yes, the classroom is important — its design, furnishings, technology, size, and configuration can support or hinder communication and learning. But learning takes place everywhere on a campus. Thought must be given to how students learn, and where, so that those environments can be just as intentional as the classroom.

Arthur Lidsky


Classroom ABCs

A is for acoustics.
It is good to be able to hear the professor. An echoey space or a shrieking ventilation system can impede learning. A noise coefficient of 30 is reasonable. Normal levels of sound generated in adjacent spaces should not be transmitted to the classroom.

B is for basic comfort.
Nobody can be expected to pay attention or participate meaningfully if the room is stiflingly hot and stuffy. Optimal human performance for sedentary tasks occurs under temperatures between 63Fº and 76Fº. There is good reason for institutions with un-air-conditioned instruction facilities to suspend classes when sustained daily temperatures exceed 90Fº.

C is for circuitry.
There are four basic lighting circuits in a well-designed classroom.

  1. General ambient lighting in teaching spaces needs to provide about 40 Footcandles at desk tops. Controls for this circuit need to be adjacent to the entry door, as well as next to the presenter's podium.
  2. Dimmed lighting for note-taking is often necessary where audio-visual presentations are part of the pedagogy. This may be achieved with rheostats (dimmers) so that students have minimal illumination for taking notes, while the space is darkened.
  3. The presenter should be provided separately controlled lights at the podium for reading notes.
  4. A separately switched bank of lights should illuminate the display surface and the adjacent marker board or chalk board.

One of our clients points out that there is a fifth circuit of lights useful in a large lecture space. A bank of “stage lights” to super-illumine the front of the auditorium or the lecture room dais will enhance staging of visiting lecture programs, panel discussions, and the video recording of such special events.

D is for display and E is for ergonomics; but we will return to this topic another time.

Charles Craig



Reviewing What
We’ve Learned

Some recent assignments involving preparing the capital implementation schedule for several campus plans brought to mind once again the necessity of considering the conservation, renovation, and fuller utilization of existing buildings as an alternative to new construction, and the importance of including deferred maintenance in the overall plan.

The mindfulness was prompted by a retrospective review of our work at Oberlin College in 1973. Prodded by a senior administrator who recognized that the seduction of new architecture left the school “space rich but with pockets of poverty all over the campus” and a trustee who argued that the ad hoc approach to campus development was not informed stewardship, Oberlin launched a comprehensive review of its physical assets with the objective of having “a cohesive and rational plan.”

The proactive approach provided the College with its first comprehensive view of how new and old facilities should be melded into a unified physical development strategy. The planning process also offered those concerned about the decay and neglect of heritage architecture and landscapes an opportunity to advocate for significant investment in the preservation and restoration of landmark facilities. It enabled those responsible for the maintenance and operations of facilities to contribute their experience and knowledge of with local conditions to shape the outcomes.

With the cost of new construction soaring to levels not previously experienced (after discounting inflation), and buildings continuing to age and to become obsolete as they inevitably will, a unified planning outcome is more useful than ever. Accordingly, some version of the Oberlin planning process should be considered, such as the following seven-step study:

  1. Organization of the planning effort
  2. Description of the existing assets
  3. Evaluation of qualitative and quantitative conditions
  4. Projection of facility requirements
  5. Matching of new and old to meet projected needs
  6. Consideration of options
  7. Articulation of an implementation plan
Except for situations where life safety or accreditation issues demand immediate remedy, the descriptions of each improvement to be included in the campus plan need not be exact. The objective is to produce an overview that is persuasive as to coverage and inspiring as to the need for implementation.

Richard P. Dober


What’s New

DLC+A at 2006 NoName Facilities Conference
Charles Craig will speak at the 2006 Annual NoName Facilities Conference to be held at Syracuse University from June 4-6, 2006. His session, from 11 AM to noon on Tuesday, June 6, entitled, Emerging Trends in Campus Design — Five Essential Factors for the 21st Century, will present an overview of new and redesigned facilities from a number of campuses across the country, highlighting key characteristics common to successful learning environments for the early 21st century.


The Cave, the Sphere, and the Learning Campus
On April 18th, Arthur Lidsky spoke at the Stata Center at MIT for a special Boston Society of Architects and Society of College and University Planners (BSA/SCUP) session on the ways in which cutting-edge theories about how people's learning shapes architectural design. In attendance were college and university designers, planners and administrators addressing a broad range of college and university planning issues.

St. Paul's School
New Science Study

DLC+A has begun working with St. Paul's School in Concord, NH on a science study. Celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, St. Paul's is an independent, co-educational boarding school for students in grades nine
through twelve.



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