The roles and responsibilities of a university architect ebb and flow with changes in administration and each particular project. When fast and cheap are valued, the role is to build short-term solutions. If investment in the future is intended a balance of stewardship and creativity is required.
Fluid Environments – Expectations vary for each campus and project. They swing through a wide range, project to project and campus to campus. This dynamic can make a university architect feel the need to be a like a chameleon, shifting from one context to another. In one setting the responsibilities are direct implementation according to established rules. In another, extensive consultation and consideration of long-term consequences are expected. Continue reading →
Jeanne Narum has changed conversations about pedagogy and place, teaching and architecture. Beginning with Project Kaleidoscope and now Learning Spaces Collaboratory she has fostered transformative and ongoing conversations improving pedagogy and the educational function of labs and classrooms. This goes far beyond the glitzy marketing photos and glib sales brochures. Her work has engaged a generation of academic leaders, teachers and architects in design thinking that makes campus matter.
Learning Spaces Collaboratory Webinars – Her current series of webinars is worth a serious look. They are organized for campus stakeholders around lessons learned throughout the country:
Investing in active learning classrooms
Developing a “space matters” culture
Dissolving boundaries between communities
Transforming through renovation and connections
The webinars build on a series of 2016 Roundtables on the Future of Planning Learning Spaces.
Year in, year out, Jeanne has focused on the needs of students and their teachers, all the while pushing planning and design professionals out of their comfort zones. This has been hard work, overcoming institutional inertia, promoting a design-thinking approach to pedagogy and challenging institutional and architectural paradigms. The results have been a generation of creativity in learning environments and encouragement for the kind of active learning that benefits both faculty and students. Without these efforts, the learning environments on the country’s campuses would be poorer – less supportive and less effective.
Here is a video from a recent informal conversation with Jeanne. She talks about the importance of cultural, pedagogical and spatial change, the support of the National Science Foundation and the histories of collaboration at the heart of Project Kaleidoscope and the Learning Spaces Collaboratory. In this informal conversation you can see why she has been such a successful agent of academic change.
What are the Uber or Airbnb equivalents of the university? These are the questions Tom Fisher thinks campus planners should be asking.
We are at the trailing edge of six decades of campus facilities expansion. The resulting mix of assets can be a rich foundation on which to rebuild and right-size sustainable institutions, or part of an unsustainable burden that helps to sink the rest.
In a recent interview, Fisher argued for rethinking many of the assumptions of the physical campus.
The campuses we have inherited are way too big. I know that seems odd, because when you are on a campus everyone is crying for more space, but we have a lot of highly specialized space that goes under-utilized…the faculty office being one of the more notable ones. Increasingly faculty are carrying their office in their laptop and cell phone. So this idea of having a room set aside for yourself is really antiquated. Classrooms are changing. They will still be used, but the whole campus is a teaching environment. The whole city and region is a learning environment.
Academic libraries have long shown the signs of digital transformation. The card catalogue was the first old friend to leave the building. Online resources have grown exponentially. Millions of unused books are being removed from active holdings. A wave of construction is transforming academic libraries into vibrant hubs of campus activity and community – no longer cul-de-sacs of paper.
Often lost in the glitzy stories of architecture, trendy furniture and high tech gadgetry are the leaders and the ideas that are at the heart of the transformation. Now on the stage are Lee Van Orsel and a generation of academic librarians leading and sometimes pulling their organizations and institutions into a future that is both physical and digital. They share a passion for the reinvention of libraries for people not paper, for access not control.
Lee and I talked at the Re-think It: Libraries for a New Age Conference at Grand Valley State University. Hers is a story of mission before place, changing academic culture before changing architecture and throughout serving to the needs of students and faculty. There are lessons here for all campus planners and designers.