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Campus Conundrum

Posted on September 2, 2016 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (2)

Campus Cognition - Examining the Effects of University Architecture on the Brain (transcription)

Part I – Campus Conundrum

In 2014 there was over $12billion spent in the construction of University buildings in the US. Nearly $9.5billion of that were new construction and the other $2.5billion for additions and renovations. That is millions of square feet of Academic space, libraries, athletic venues and complexes, and residences… adding 1,000s of new beds around the country.

The planning and design for these multitude of buildings came from years of experience, countless hours of effort, and numerous skilled people. The goal of this sizeable endeavor was, in some way, to improve the campus experience. To enhance the environment of each of those particular Universities.


Did it work? Is the University “better” as a result of the new spaces?

It seems to me that our job is to make campus better and improve the space to best suit the functions, needs, and users. We meet with administrators, students, faculty, and staff to develop an understanding of the needs of the user and how best to organize the spce to fit those needs. We develop diagrams, models, renderings to further this conversation between designer and client. We look at precedence and case studies of past buildings. The influence of the past aids in improving the future design. These and other processes are implemented in order to ensure campus will be improved (at least ideally)

Designs are finalized and projects are built.

How does the building measure up? There maybe some follow up to compare the program to the completed product. A commissioning agent will probably some through a few times to check the sustainability features of the design. University administrators and facilities professionals will review a lessons learned of the project. Maybe even implementing industry developed metrics to calculate maintenance efforts. Sometimes we can even get Post Occupancy Evaluations of the buildings to get a sense of the user experience. However, amongst all these efforts to judge the building to how it improved campus they more or less fall short. They rely on subjective ratings, opinions, and observations. The mission of the University is to create and disseminate knowledge...





So, more of this....





and less of this...



Therefore, the metric for University Architecture should be rooted in the improvement of learning the space creates.

My presentation is about the relationship between Architecture & Learning. And why it is important to Design with the Brain in Mind. Over the next few blog posts I’ll outline, ask, and hopefully answer the following:


Where Does Learning Happen?


Does Space Impact Learning?


How does Space Affect the Brain?


How Can the Brain-Space Connection Improve Learning on Campus?

 

DesignDC 2016

Posted on August 25, 2016 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Yesterday I presented my research and thoughts on Architecture-Neuroscience-Education for the first time at DesignDC. Though nervous and anxious, I was excited for the opportunity to present. It was good to come full circle from two years ago when i first heard about Architecture-Neuroscience research to be able to add (albeit a tiny amount) to the field.

Over the next week I'll publish my presentation to share with a hopefully larger audience. The opportunity to share was great. There was a good discussion after speaking in which we talked about how digital education will play a role in campus planning. We discussed the crux of the issue - how do you design with the brain in mind. 


Campus Cognition

Posted on August 9, 2016 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Good morning all!

In anticiaption of further research I am beginning my blog to document what I find out about the connections between Architecture - Education - Neuroscience.

But, to start with let me talk about how I got here...

As indicated in my Bio page I am an Architect working at the University of Maryland Residential Facilities. Mostly it seems my work is of a project management sort. Or maybe better described as design management. I'll develop RFPs and scopes and do some design work. As I have worked at this I have come against various challenges... budgets, maintence of equipment, cleaning of material choices, etc... These are legitimate issues that need resolution. However, more often than not these design challenges were dictated by maintenance and housekeeping rather than looking toward the users of the space - the students. 

This was the biggest challange that I faced...how to defend my design choices. My approach was to think logically and in a way that could be factually and substantially supported. In different designs I tried to incorporate a unique material, a different form, something to bring some interest to the space. My attempt was to create some kind of spark without being outlandish or expensive. Not to be different for the sake of being different but to challenge the space. Most (ok, really all) of the time it was shot down. The design didn't fit a 'standard', it wasn't well understood how to maintain it, it would be different to clean. So... I would go back tto the drawing board and come up with the same designs that had already been done. My approach was off but I didn't know how to verifiy that the different design was truly better. That the design would make a difference for the student. 

This changed in the Fall of 2014. While attending DesignDC in a mostly melancholy sort of way I went to a lecture by Milton Shinburg and Dr. Bermudez on Neuroscience and Architecture. This was the perspective I was looking for. They outlined a scientific basis for architectural design choices. Though still very early in the research process it was a new way of rationalizing design in a measurable manner... (or at least that is the intent). Mr. Shinburg discussed the perception of beauty as it relates to a neurological/biological sense. Dr. Bermudez discussed his research on using fMRI to discover the relationship of contemplative spaces to contemplative states of mind. He showed using scientific methods and research the evidence of how a space can effect one's mood. This was a fascinating introduction to how design could be defended and substantially supported. 

Over the last two years I have read and researched this topic extensively. And, as with anything worth pursuing, every answer brought on new questions. Though I have been reading other's research for two years I know enough to know there is so much more to learn. I have also learned that although I have gained a lot by reading it is necessary to test the theoried nd concepts.

This blog will be a format to share what I am learning and create a community that can help develop methods to support design decisions. 



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