As any parent who has been on one too many college visits will tell you, not all universities are equal. Particularly, it seems, in the architecture and design of their campuses.
University design is always ruled by trends, which change with the wants and needs of each incoming class. As summer comes to a close and back-to-school begins, we’ve identified some of the top trends in education design today.
As with many high-use buildings like healthcare and office facilities, higher education requires flexibility in design. Educational spaces built today need to continue to be useful depending on changes in technology, class size, and the subject being taught. According to Peter Fabris, contributing editor at Building Design and Construction, flexibility at higher education facilities is often achieved through portable furniture and modular spaces. He cites the Link Teaching and Learning Center at Duke University, where the classrooms, “feature an above-ceiling strut system with power and data connections. Speakers, cameras, microphones, and monitors can be easily installed and moved as needed.”
University buildings are often built to be utterly unique, and to make a statement about the university and its values. As such, institutions of higher education are increasingly looking to famous, well-renowned architects to design new buildings. According to a news release, a new library at Temple University, “is being designed by Snøhetta, an architectural firm renowned for its innovative library designs.”
Other universities already employed the trend, known colloquially as “starchitecture.” According to Chris Parr at Times Higher Education, the James H. Clark Center and the Center for Clinical Science Research at Stanford University was designed by the company of British architect Sir Norman Foster. The Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT was designed by Frank Ghery.
Redefining the Library
The library is often the emotional and physical heart of a university campus. As information technologies continue to make traditional libraries obsolete, a trend towards redefining the library can be seen across education.
As Temple University plans their new library, the administration looks to design a flexible space for many uses, what Dean of University Libraries Joseph Lucia describes as a, “highly varied ecosystem,” including space for everything from traditional library use to 3-D printing. To conserve space and look towards the future, the university even plans on including a robotic text retrieval system, wherein a robot will retrieve books from the stacks on behalf of students.
According to Fabris, this sci-fi technology is not limited to Temple University. He says, “Many universities are relocating at least part of their print collections to remote storage facilities—some using robotic automated retrieval systems—so that precious library space can be repurposed.”
Striking and Authentic Interiors
In, “Trends in Higher Education Interiors,” author Stuart McCormick writes, “Today’s college student is more attuned to design than ever before.”
In the article, he notes interior design on college campuses is trending towards a reflection of the “soul” of the school; design elements, particularly school colors, are employed to strengthen the school brand. He writes, “Over-eager marketing directors may insist on the use of the school’s exact matching Pantone colors for interior uses. While this may work well for athletic facilities that receive only occasional use, it can be a bit extreme for interior spaces.”
McCormick recommends matching school colors in interiors with softer palettes. Surfacing options like those found in Lamin-Art’s Solid Colors and Pearlescence collections offer a variety of options that would work well in these interiors. Whereas school colors are typically loud and brash, Lamin-Art’s palette includes plenty of soft and neutral tones which, while carrying the theme, would not be as harsh on the eyes. For example, replacing the bright Michigan Maize with Solid Colors 9216 Lemon Zest in the dining hall, or substituting the loud LSU purple with Pearlescence 2457 Ametrine in the student lounge.
Regardless of the exact trend, one thing is for certain: As demand for higher education continues to rise and the student body becomes more conscious of their surroundings, colleges and universities will continue to look for new and exciting designs to carry their school into the future. Whether this means a robot-filled library or a particularly colorful student union, you will just have to wait until your next child is ready for college visits to find out.