“We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” – Winston Churchill.
Architecture and the spaces we live in influence us to a great extent. Humans can design and construct buildings that satisfy their wants and desires. However, once built, these structures affect the people who dwell or interact with them.
As college students, we spend significant time on campus, traversing various buildings and venues. The architectural design of these structures, from lecture halls to libraries, student centers to dorms, can significantly influence our academic achievement, social relationships, and overall well-being.
Architecture and design can profoundly influence a student’s learning environment. Open interactive spaces, double-height ceilings, natural lighting, and well-designed study areas in libraries can create an atmosphere beneficial to studying and research. Colleges and universities, become a “home away from home” for students and faculties alike.
While cutting-edge architecture is reserved for certain educational institutions, simple retrofitting and innovative design features may significantly enhance the student experience.
Promoting mental and physical well-being
A well-planned living and learning space enhances the overall physical state of students, in turn bolstering mental Health. Dormitory layout and design can significantly impact sleep quality, privacy, and general comfort. Adequately ventilated, natural-light-filled spaces prioritizing solitude may improve slumber and relaxation. Furthermore, including green areas in campus design, such as gardens or parks, can allow relaxation, stress reduction, and physical activity, leading to increased mental well-being.
Fostering inclusive social interaction
College is more than an academic hub. It is a hotspot for cultural events, social meetings, and club gatherings and for forming the most unexpected friendships from the first year!
Currently, where we aim to break cultural and social barriers, providing recreational facilities like sports courts, gyms, and club halls or a common quadrangle facilitates social interaction that encourages socialization and communication.
An example of this is the Student Plaza at a social and student-centric at Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT), Manipal, Karnataka, India.
Built almost at the center of the very huge “mighty mighty MIT” campus, it acts as a hang-out spot for students, all around campus.
It is one of those go-to-stop points, that you inevitably pass by on your way to your final stop, be it during your early runs to classes, to catch an auto, or whether you’re on your way to your hostels. With a variety of shops catering to all students’ essential needs, the place remains lively and bustling with student activity throughout the day.
Enhancing Accessibility & inclusivity
Inclusive architecture aims to provide all students equal access to educational and co-curricular facilities. Its impact extends to mental health, particularly for student veterans and individuals coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers at Texas A&M University’s (TAMU) College of Engineering conducted a study in 2020 to investigate how a build environment might affect people with PTSD. The study looked at architectural, interior, and ambient design components to see which helped with symptom management.
Before commencing construction on a housing project at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (CPP), architect James Sink and his team at HMC Architects exhibited their dedication to inclusion by convening a stakeholder meeting with students in 2016.
Students’ proposals for gender-inclusive bathrooms and showers were incorporated by the architecture firm HMC Architects into the Sicomoro residence hall (above) at California Polytechnic State University, Pomona, to ensure that residents of all genders feel secure and at ease.
By placing barrier-free entry points, ramps, and wider corridors, students can have equal opportunities and aid in fostering a sense of belonging within the campus community.
Architects and designers prioritize inclusivity by incorporating flexible features like movable furniture and adjustable desks in frequently used spaces. They also design tiered classrooms with gently sloping walkways, enabling inclusive seating options for individuals with disabilities, ensuring they can have a comparable experience to their peers, if not identical.
Promoting Sustainable Practices:
With recent studies promoting sustainable architectural practices and methodologies, students know the importance of sustainability and environmental conservation. Well-thought design can play a crucial role in promoting sustainable practices on campus. Architecture can contribute to a greener and more sustainable campus by incorporating energy-efficient designs, utilizing renewable energy sources, implementing proper waste management systems, and using eco-friendly materials.
Sprawling across 40 acres of area, the Universal Business School, in Mumbai utilizes 912 solar panels to provide 70% of its electricity. The campus’s 16 acres green zone ecosystem is home to 7,500 distinct species of plants as well as other flora and fauna. Being the first MBA school in India to publish its own ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) report sets it apart from others.
Such sustainable practices reduce the environmental footprint and raise awareness among students about the importance of sustainability in their daily lives.
The impact of architecture on our lives as college students is undeniable. From creating accessible learning environments to creating healthy social connections and promoting mental well-being, thoughtful design plays a vital role in shaping campus life. As college campuses continue to evolve, educational institutions must prioritize architecture that aligns with their values, fosters a sense of community, and prepares students for a bright and prosperous future.
As students, we need to recognize the significance of architecture and advocate for designs that enhance our educational journey and contribute positively to our overall college experience. By prioritizing thoughtful and student-centered architecture, we can create campuses that inspire, support, and empower us during our academic pursuits.
- Online Sources
Citation for websites:
- Fink, M. (2021) Architecture: A catalyst for change in the lives of college students., LAN Associates. Available at: https://lanassociates.com/industry-insights/how-school-design-and-architecture-can-impact-students-mental-health/ (Accessed: 05 July 2023).
- Cliburn, E. (2021) Architecture: A catalyst for change in the lives of college students., INSIGHT Into Diversity. Available at: https://www.insightintodiversity.com/inclusive-design-can-change-the-face-of-campus-architecture/ (Accessed: 05 July 2023).
- Badoni, A. (2021) 5 sustainable Indian campuses that have set an example for others, Youth Ki Awaaz. Available at: https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2021/12/5-sustainable-campuses-india-environment-green-campus/ (Accessed: 06 July 2023).