Posted In // Design Tips
Environment & the cure for polioIn the 1950s, legendary biologist Jonas Salk was researching a polio cure in a secluded basement lab in Pittsburgh. He wasn’t having much success; so to improve his focus, he flew to Assisi, Italy. In Italy, Salk visited a monastery that was built in the 1200s, featuring ornate architecture and beautiful courtyards.
Salk’s mind quickly started coming up with various ideas, one of which eventually pointed toward the polio vaccine. The doctor was certain the new approaches would not have occurred to him without the peaceful and thoughtful nature of his surroundings. In fact, he became so interested in the relationship between design and psychology that he worked with architect Louis Kahn to create the Salk Institute in California. The center’s design was specifically geared toward boosting creativity and innovation.
Increasingly, research has proven Salk correct; and higher education has adapted settings to better suit the mind, especially in terms of giving users more control and access. What are some trends in design at universities?
#1 – Mobility for adaptation to specific needs
One of the biggest concerns in education, as in companies, is that people have some control to adapt their environments to the given situation. “Increasing options in mobile furniture have indeed done much to allow students and faculty to create configurations that foster a specific learning need or task,” notes College Planning & Management. “Strategies such as coding furnishings and upholstery in specific colors can be employed to identify distinct spaces.” The color coding makes it more obvious when something has been moved from its usual setting so it can be returned.
#2 – Technology for digital connection
Even more important that mobility is the ability to achieve whatever you want with technology. Hardwiring everything makes it difficult to create an environment that’s as flexible as students and faculty desire. Wi-Fi is becoming faster to provide the network, but power outlets are still necessary. Recognizing these changing needs, furniture makers are now producing tables and seating arrangements with built-in power modules. Notably, it isn’t always easy to set up these new power-friendly furniture systems correctly. Hardwiring can also be critical when people need to collaborate. Systems are available that allow you to plug your mobile device or PC into a console so that everyone can see the digital resource on a screen, with users alternately taking the controls.
#3 – Multipurpose, multi-disciplinary space for collaboration
Just as mobility and flexibility are important for classrooms, they are fundamental when universities create multi-disciplinary settings to integrate various fields of knowledge. “Co-locating different disciplines within the same building is an increasingly common tactic,” says Building Design & Construction, “all in the belief that more effective learning, higher-quality research, and greater levels of innovation result when academics from different backgrounds and disciplines work in close proximity.”