Iconic academic institutions, like Oxford and Cambridge in the UK and Princeton and Yale in the US are renowned not only for their education but also their stunning architecture. Unfortunately upkeep of these buildings is extremely expensive. Plus the design is not as functional as it could be to fit a modern day student’s needs.
Administrators of these esteemed institutions have fast realized that if they have to increase the admission rate in the future, they will have to provide more hospitable learning environments to ensure continued recruitment.
To boost student recruitment, university campuses have been following quite a few trends:
Hiring renowned architects or ‘starchitects’ is a tried and tested strategy for revamping campuses, and gaining PR and branding attention. British architect Sir Norman Foster’s company is responsible for Stanford University’s James H. Clark Center and the Center for Clinical Science Research. Not only are they well designed for students they are also architecturally impressive to look at. However there are also examples where design has failed its purpose—A glaring example being Stata Center at MIT designed by Frank Gehry, which had issues like leaks and structural damage. The author of this article, Chris Parr, warns us against this fallacy. Students want something that is not only functional but is also a home away from home.
Take an existing structure and give it a new makeover. Yes, it’s that simple. And environmentally friendly. And cost-effective. And if anyone is worried about aesthetics, well, it already fits in with the local landscape. According to University Trends, the dissolved nunnery of St Radegund in Cambridge was repurposed as Jesus College in the 1490s, while in the US, in 1946, Roosevelt University moved into a 19th-century theatre in Chicago. Repurposing and refurbishing old structures is not an easy or inexpensive feat—think, for instance, inefficiencies in old buildings like heating and electricity. The Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia has redeveloped some of its older buildings simply because of their history, which adds to their inherent brand value.
When it comes to building new structures, most universities want to be sustainable. From green roofs and solar panels to rainwater being repurposed to flush toilets and irrigate lawns, sustainability architecture is very much in demand. For instance, London South Bank University’s K2 building, designed and built using green technology and opened in 2009, has ground source heat pumps (which use pipes to harness heat from the earth), wind turbines and solar panels. The building is also used as a teaching resource for those studying sustainability, particularly students in the university’s architecture programs.
When buildings are not in use, say during vacations, it’s a complete waste of space and finances. Lecture halls can sometimes lie unused for weeks at a time. Sharing underused facilities with other organizations is a great way to save money and reduce the university’s carbon footprint. For instance, Sugden Sports Centre is shared by both Manchester Metropolitan and the University of Manchester.
Informal, flexible learning spaces
Technology in classrooms has changed the way professors teach and students learn. Online learning and mobile devices have taken academia out of the confines of a classroom. Students Skype in for classes. Google Chat classrooms allow instructors to conduct classes from other countries. Mr. Parr rightly says that, “The impact of new technology on pedagogy is also influencing university building design.” The new generation of students are more interested in informal learning spaces, social spaces, IT facilities, dining areas, and counseling services, to name a few.
The allure of the city
Location, location, location is everything. Students enjoy being in an area where they aren’t just stuck on campus. Cornell University, which is located more than 200 miles northwest of New York City, has opened a number of buildings in Manhattan for exactly this reason. Not everyone can travel 200 miles to the campus grounds, so they are taking education to where the students are. And this strategy seems to be working in building student recruitment. Who doesn’t love city centers, where everything is so accessible! (image via Steelcase)