The cut-throat competition in today’s work industry pushes students to pursue an alma mater that makes them future-ready. The crucible of this process is the incubation space that the students spend most of their time at, aka the University campus. This makes us designers responsible for creating a collaborative environment that can mold and adapt itself to the changes of the century, thus guaranteeing a master plan for the entire community. There are several challenges to the design of such a large-scale project.
Here are ten things to keep in mind for an efficient and intelligent University campus design.
1. ADOPT URBAN PLANNING STRATEGIES
Designing a University campus is like planning a mini town. It is imperative to imagine the project’s scale for an urban public realm and design on an axis. As one of society’s most treasured assets, its planning also needs to be aligned with the pace of facility investments and uncertain funding streams so that the design is flexible and in tandem with future developments.
In a low, dense suburb, there are forty-four buildings that follow an open space design at the University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia). The pedestrian-friendly campus is axially planned, directing the movement and giving a sense of order and circulation. It also accommodates transitional and social activities in its open lawns.
2. DRAW ATTENTION AND PAINT AN IDENTITY
It is easy for newcomers to get lost in the maze of buildings and pathways at a University campus. A focus helps visually dominate a space acting as a landmark to help people navigate. This focus also has cultural and social significance and can be a center for recreational activities. It is an integral part of the design that draws eyes towards it.
At Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, the pedestrian plaza manifests the institute’s maple leaf history. The central sculptural element has panels of cut-weathering steel with ‘whispering maple’ figures with a low seating area. Subtle color-changing LED change the sculpture’s hues at night. These are guiding landmarks at the crossroads of the central plaza and create its unique identity.
3. PRACTICE PLACEMAKING & UTILIZE VARIETY OF SCALE
From large-scaled quadrangles to small-scaled connective spaces such as corridors, the campus has to serve multiple functions on a variety of scales. Architects need to decipher the correlation between activities so that the design promotes their inter-relatedness. It allows the seamless integration of core facilities such as places of social and cultural milieu with the academic blocks (research labs, lecture halls, studios, etc.).
As seen in the master plans for The University of Washington’s campus, the design facilitates an insightful experience that integrates all the stakeholders- administration, academia, and the industry. With divisional blocks and multiple places of social interaction, the campus brings about serendipitous learning.
4. CREATE THE DIGITAL REPOSITORY
Progressive digitalization has reduced our visits to the traditional silent sanctuaries of paper scrolls. But the quality environment a library offers is still popular among the students of the higher education arena. Thus, there is a need not for a repository of paperbacks but of contemporary multi-functional spaces that encourage learning by harnessing the technological innovations of the age.
The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago’s campus is the epitome of a state-of-the-art reading nook. By shifting the book storage underground and incorporating an automated retrieval system, the designers have tapped into the potential of natural lighting through the clear glass dome. This has increased productivity and allowed sustainability to thrive.
5. USHER CREATIVITY WITH INCUBATION SPACES
With the start-up culture on the rise, dedicated pockets that spark discussions are required where students can experiment, fail, and start over. These spaces help forge connections of academia with the industry. In the advanced technological setting, it is an architect’s responsibility to create an environment that promotes a flexible learning environment and encourages the entrepreneurial spirit.
At the University of East London, Knowledge Dock caters to each user’s needs with a fluid work environment. The co-existence of active and focus spaces in layers, as seen in its plan along with adaptable collaboration areas, mobile writable screens, and bold graphics, makes this a bustling center of electricity and innovation.
6. THE CAMPUS LIFE EXPERIENCE
On-campus residency is an integral part of the whole college experience for the students. The design should cater to the array of housing needs of the students as well as the teachers. These living spaces should accommodate the contemporary student’s hectic lifestyles and provide all the necessary amenities.
The residential facility at Phoenix for students at Arizona State University is an example of world-class planning. Special care is taken to mold spaces such as dining halls with movable furniture and walls for video projection so that students can learn and create in the comforts of their residence halls, irrespective of the time of the day. The residence allows students to be seen yet offers them privacy.
7. BIOPHILIC NEED OF THE HOUR
Scientific studies have proven the therapeutic effect of biodiversity on stressed minds. Thus, tending to the campus landscape is essential because it offers a sense of retreat to the students dabbling with multiple deadlines. A lush green lawn is always a welcome sight for the people of any age group. Dotted with plants, these spaces generate a healthy mindset for the entire community.
The Espace Bienvenüe at Cité Descartes’ campus in Paris is an innovative project which focuses on ecology. Contrasting the flat site, the 200-meter-long, undulating landscaped gardens built over a concrete structure offer exuberant panoramic views. They bring fresh air to the dense complex, thus reinforcing a spirit of relaxation and peace.
8. DESIGN FOR ALL
The campus needs to have a barrier-free approach. The designer should ensure all areas, whether recreational or institutional, and all pedestrian routes should follow inclusive design guidelines. All paved walkways must have contrasting edge demarcations, provision of handrails, and curb cuts. There should be separate toilet stalls in public spaces for the disabled.
The University of Texas at Arlington has been a trailblazer in building an accessible campus. They have replaced every single door handle from a knob to a lever across the uni. By setting up an Adaptive Resource Center, UTA has sent across the message to the entire world that inclusive architecture isn’t about installing ramps in your design.
9. FOCUS ON SPORTS AND HEALTH
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Planning of sports grounds, gymnasium, and even rejuvenating spas are of immense importance for the University. These need to follow Olympic standards and guidelines. Medical health centers also need to be planned meticulously. This building block needs to be accessible to all at all times.
The gymnasium’s dynamic design at Shanghai University of Science and Technology lies at the starting point for the residential quarters for teachers and students. It is a dominant landmark whose scale and landscape harmonizes with the surroundings of towering dormitory buildings and encourages sporting fervor among the residents.
10. USE SUSTAINABILITY AS AN EDUCATIONAL TOOL
Campus design embodies visions and mirrors the goals of the University. Sustainability is one such core value that needs to reflect in the design as the carbon footprint of a large-scale project such as this can have a profound impact on the environment.
UC Merced’s buildings stand to realize its values of conservation and resource-efficiency. As a green building pioneer, all of its buildings have already met or are working to meet LEED standards. This future-oriented campus has aligned itself to the broader academic goals proving to be one of California’s best institutes.