More often than not, the quality of education courses, teachers and programs are the highest priority in the higher education space because at the end of the day, it is these factors which drive the success of the tertiary education institution. In saying this, the campus architecture and student experience which accompanies this are key factors in differentiating campuses in a high level of competition.
Architectus has specialist expertise in architecture, urban design, urban planning and interior architecture – keep reading below for a sneak peek into their thoughts of Future Campus Planning.
The tertiary education sector has changed so much along with the students and the way we learn. How has architecture supported this shift?
Tertiary students these days lead very busy and complex lives: many work significant hours in part-time jobs, many come from other countries and have the excitement – and sometimes stress – of learning about a new city and culture. Why would you travel into the campus to attend a one hour lecture if you can watch it at home? The answer (and this is where the architecture comes in) is to create an experience in that lecture that can’t be replicated on-line. We have recently created spaces at the University of Melbourne that support the Arts Faculty focus on giving students a deeper and richer experience through active learning, discussion and debate. The spaces are configured to encourage discussion by achieving eye contact right around the room and conversations to occur in varying group sizes. The design liberates speakers from the lectern and into the audience so they can focus on facilitation and moderation rather than lecturing.
What other changes in the education landscape have affected the way you approach the design of a campus?
Collaborative ventures between Universities and private sector, for instance, in the health and medical research areas provide Universities with exciting opportunities to create clearer pathways between research, teaching and practice. In terms of campus design, these sorts of projects need to be designed to be part of vibrant, interactive environments to make the most of the ‘community connect’.
Online learning Universities are on the bring of the next wave. How are universities rethinking the idea of the campus under the competition of online learning? It’s an exciting time to be imagining their campus in new ways and learning in the digital age. The catch phrase is the “Threat of the MOOCs”.
What kind of innovative design have you used to help differentiate a campus?
- The Ideas Market at James Cook University in Townsville is the place where Townsville and JCU come together in an exchange of ideas. It includes shops, housing, JCU teaching spaces and a large screen for promoting JCU research and to screen important public lectures. The space is envisioned as a Dry Tropical ‘Souk’ with filtered dappled light and cooling water elements, a model of Dry Tropical Urbanism, where a lively shady urban environment provides the perfect setting for porous tropical buildings.
- Arts West, currently in design, is drawing on the unique and prestigious collection of art and artefacts from The University of Melbourne’s collection. To date a large proportion of the collection has been in storage, the conceptual anchor of the building and it’s surrounds is the student’s ability to engage and learn from one-of-a-kind artefacts. Artefacts are scattered throughout the building for students to engage with outside of formal class time, there are two dedicated Object Laboratories and the façade instils this concept through its design.
From working on many large projects in the education sector how have you come to understand the importance of campus design and development for institutions to remain competitive and attract students?
For universities, moving from the idea of their campus as a monastic ‘place apart’ to a more contemporary conception where Universities are ‘Knowledge Communities’, campus design is key. Developing ways to break down perceived or actual physical barriers between ‘gown’ and ‘town’ can take the form of radical reworking of campus connections and edges as well as more subtle integration of activities, built form and streets-capes.
Keeping the physical campus as the primary environment for learning is critical. So much of student experience occurs on the way to a class, between lectures, in a café – it’s saturated through the fine grain of the campus“Learning between Buildings”.
The circulation spaces and areas between buildings, while obviously linking the main functional areas of a campus are also serendipitous pathways for chance encounters and informal learning environments. Campus design needs to foster fluid places to meet, discuss and exchange perspectives in the ebb and flow of university life, generating the attractive collegial atmosphere.
Institutions need to reimagine their campuses to differentiate themselves from the competition. Millions of dollars are currently being invested in campus planning and design.
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