The higher education landscape of the U.S. is changing beneath our feet. There are over 1,600 community colleges across the country and half of all students who receive a baccalaureate degree attend community college in the course of their undergraduate studies. Community colleges provide affordable access to education for minorities, low income students, working adults, and first-generation higher education students.
As the institution of high education changes, so too should the architecture. Traditional university architecture in the Collegiate Gothic style as well as Thomas Jefferson’s classically inspired “Academical Village” represent exclusivity and elitism, while in contrast the architecture of community colleges should reflect the core values of accessibility, flexibility, and attainability in education.
An extension of a decade long conversion of a former grocery store into classroom space, this learning studio addition addresses a growing community college’s need for additional classrooms with an emphasis on flexibility and collaboration in the learning environment. The college desired to enhance their program offerings and attract potential students through those programs, as well as through the architecture of the new building.
Each learning studio has the ability to transform into countless configurations to allow maximum flexibility in the classroom. Flexibility was achieved through a grid work of floor electrical boxes, multidirectional projectors, 360 degree writing surfaces, and mobile furniture. Lighting can be customized through multiple programmable scenes and all instructor equipment can be remotely operated. The comprehensive assemblage of these flexible components allows instructors to effectively configure each classroom to best suit their individual curriculum and teaching methods; lecture based, group seminar based, and everything in between.
The learning studios, along with faculty offices, form the perimeter of the building creating a central collaborative space which includes private, semi-private, and informal public meeting spaces where students and faculty can study, relax, and work together on group projects. The evident transparency of the central space increases the probability of spontaneous collaborations as well as increases the exposure of the college’s programs and teaching methods.