“The Learning Commons is a dramatic leap forward in the planning and design of such spaces for higher education campuses.”
The Learning Commons already has radically transformed the Kettering University campus and experience. It just might kick-start a similar rethinking of learning spaces at colleges and universities across the country.
At the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) 2022 Annual Conference in Long Beach, California, in July, the Learning Commons served as a case study for the evolution of campus spaces such as libraries and common areas into collaboration hubs and idea incubators. Travis Sage, principal and studio design leader at architecture and engineering firm Stantec; Patrick Calhoun, architect at Stantec; and Dr. Robert K. McMahan, Kettering University President, led the hour-long presentation.
“The Learning Commons is more than the symbol of the growth of Kettering University,” McMahan said. “We truly believe the design of the Learning Commons and the ideas behind its forward-thinking layout have set a new standard for campuses across the country. From this point forward, universities will challenge themselves to create innovative, architecturally stunning yet functional spaces for students and their faculty that build off the concepts championed by the Learning Commons and Kettering University.”
The SCUP presentation also highlighted recent library projects at two other universities. Together, the three projects illustrate how “how the academic library has evolved from a place of study into an incubator for new methods of student engagement, collaboration, and ideation,” according to the SCUP program.
The selection committee praised the presentation as a whole and the Learning Commons in particular. “The Kettering case study with the complete removal of books seems particularly provocative,” one panelist wrote anonymously.
Stantec designed the Learning Commons at Kettering University to be flexible now and into the future, anticipating further innovations in education facility design. “With power and technology woven throughout, the building can easily transform to meet untold academic needs while also affording adaptability to any future programs or space reconfigurations that cannot yet be foreseen,” according to a project summary on the Stantec website.
As Principal Designer for the project, Travis Sage adds, “The Learning Commons is a dramatic leap forward in the planning and design of such spaces for higher education campuses. It is crafted for a next generation of learners, delivering a space that enhances and inspires the application of learning through collaboration, ideation, socialization and fun.”
SCUP is an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit higher education organization that is forging new paths using strategic integrated planning strategies. The organization’s annual conference is solutions—building upon a culture of integrated planning.
The official grand opening of the Learning Commons is Friday, Sept. 23. To watch the livestream of the event, click here.