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High-tech, high-touch learning.

Strolling across the campus green to Contemporary Lit, a college freshman may pass a fully equipped health club; 24-hour student center with Internet, faxing, and copying capabilities; a gourmet restaurant; and a series of private student apartments with complete kitchens. Once inside the ivy-covered classroom building, he or she may plug a lap-top into a de download a reading list and then charge on-line a few needed school supplies with a combination debit/security-access/student-ID card from the virtual university bookstore.

Sound a little far-fetched? Actually, many of these amenities are a part of today's universities - or will be soon. Higher education facilities are experiencing future shock as institutional owners, interior designers, architects, and space planners work to accommodate a diverse student body while finding innovative ways to attract students. Colleges are responding to the increased demand for student services by viewing each student as a whole person and not just an academic, reshaping university interiors with:

* ADA compliance.

* Dining hall options.

* Enhanced security.

* Convenient computer access.

* Residential amenities.

Wide Open Spaces

Over the past decade, higher education design professionals have been renovating interiors to comply with American with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. The University of Missouri-Columbia (MU), Columbia, MO, for instance, made a strong commitment to ADA accessibility, following the guidelines strictly. All campus buildings are accessible with ramps and mechanical chair lifts. "We determined the most critical areas and planned out what phases two and three would be," says Kim Penton, MU senior interior designer.

Adapting historic educational facilities to follow ADA guidelines is especially challenging. With facilities dating back to 1795, the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, has struggled with making all of its buildings accessible. According to Cheryl Leguillow, facilities planner II at the university, stepped platforms and fixed seating presented specific problems. As buildings are being renovated, other areas within the ADA guidelines are being incorporated in the plan: Lever-handle hardware has replaced traditional doorknobs; classroom aisles have been widened; and table heights have been lowered - all to increase accessibility.

Fine Dining

Has the death knell rung for old-fashioned cafeterias? The latest trend is moving away from traditional, stand-in-line dining halls to mall-inspired food courts and restaurants. According to David Soleau, executive vice president, Earl R. Flansburgh & Associates, Boston, "When I went to college, it was very much like a boarding school - meat and potatoes only. And it was set up for the kitchen help. You ate [breakfast from] eight to nine, lunch from twelve to one, and dinner, five to six-thirty.

"Flexibility in dining is big now - in time, variety, and finishes." At MU, for example, students and faculty can choose from a collection of food booths, offering Mexican and Chinese fare, even a hamburger stand. Fontbonne College, a private Catholic college in Clayton, MO, will sport an alternative food service option - part student union, part a la carte restaurant - after an extensive renovation. Tom Brooks-Pilling, partner at St. Louis-based architectural firm Pfaff Partnership, who is currently working on the Fontbonne renovation, says more universities are looking to market themselves with quality-of-life amenities.

Under Lock and Key

In addition to appeasing the mercurial American palette, universities are striving to protect students while allowing greater access. "What we're trying to end up with is not having that night watchman going around and shutting all the doors. At five or six o'clock, when a facility empties, the doors lock. Then you need an ID badge for access to get back into the building," says Penton. Instead of traditional security desks, colleges and universities can use advanced technology to safeguard facilities.

Presently, a significant building boom at MU is incorporating a security pilot program with security/ID cards and a computerized database into its new facilities. The advent of smart cards is opening up buildings, allowing access to select faculty and students.

"The keycards are becoming universal, [enabling access to] only a portion of a building. Security on campus is like everything else. Technology is more flexible," says Soleau.

Next Exit, Information Superhighway

Some universities and colleges are improving students' quality of life with increased access to facilities and convenient computer access to the Internet. According to a study by Market Data Retrieval of Dun & Bradstreet U.S., Murray Hill, NJ, only two percent of colleges require students to own a computer. However, 60 percent of students surveyed own computers. Increasingly, colleges accept on-line admittance applications, course registration, and homework assignments. More and more academic courses are requiring laptops and, as a matter of course, an increasing number of students are bringing computers with them. "One program in the education department requires that all freshmen bring with them, just as they would a book, a laptop. Other programs will follow suit," explains Penton. "In engineering-intensive programs, the [students] have them."

"By the year 2002, every freshman will have a laptop," says Leguillow. "Bight now, [campus] buildings cannot accommodate that sort of thing. We're going through looking at things we can do to change that," says Leguillow, noting that UNC is experimenting with technical access options.

Old-fashioned chairs with simple tablet "desks" will be replaced with furniture that allows students to plug in computers. UNC's facilities planning department is currently upgrading interiors with modular furniture, such as tables that can be linked together in different configurations as classroom needs change. These tables are outfitted with electrical and computer outlets, allowing users to hook up from a common basin feed. The university is also considering auditorium seats with dataports in the armrests. Interior designers at Fontbonne College are considering panel systems and modular furniture that can grow and adapt with the college.

Schools across the country are placing Internet access in residence halls, student lounges, libraries - anywhere students congregate. Soleau sums up the dilemma for universities: "Soon there will be a data computer outlet by every pillow."

University interiors are shuttling wire management through ceilings and along walls and floor perimeters with flexible raceways. Alternately, raised flooring and carpet tile are being used. "We just finished a library at Boston College Law School that has over 500 computer outlets for laptops. That means you can have that many students sitting at different tables plugged into a network," says Soleau.

Brooks-Pilling stresses the importance of quality lighting control and light fixtures that do not produce a distracting glare on computer screens. Beneficial lighting for a computer-filled classroom is overhead indirect lighting, paired with light-blocking curtains, he says. Dimmable and preset lighting controls can be used to adjust lights for different classroom activities.

The expense of accommodating technology is taxing the already tight budgets of facilities planning departments in many colleges. According to Leguillow, UNC relies on paints instead of wallcoverings, and all finishes are in timeless neutrals and color-coordinated to match one another. Durable vinyl composite tile, mini blinds, and polypropylene-shell, general-purpose chairs are the current standard in classrooms, study lounges, and administrative buildings. Laminated tables are preferred over wood to prevent scratches. Leguillow says that individual departments can add color, punch, and individual style with things that can be easily changed, such as artwork and upholstery.

To reduce maintenance costs without compromising interior design, Brooks-Pilling recommends, "The quality of the materials themselves is the most important thing. Choose ones that are proven over time and not just the most inexpensive thing you can throw at it." Redesigning buildings to house appropriate maintenance supplies on each floor and grouping dirt-creating activities together - such as ceramic classes - can reduce the spread of dust and dirt.

Lush Life

Residential halls have been changed drastically by universities in order to attract and retain students. "The Cambridge and Oxford model of doubles, singles, and quads with a common dining hall is diminishing," says Soleau. "Just as the student body is more diverse, so is the type of housing." Brooks-Pilling concurs, adding, "Dormitories are a major marketing piece for colleges and universities these days. Students have become smart shoppers, and college and universities have become good marketers."

To appeal to students, living quarters have become more home-like. In addition to more spacious accommodations, carpet and attractive wallcoverings are becoming more commonplace, As an alternative to one-size-fits-all approaches, more universities are seeking input from students and faculty on the appearance and function of buildings. At MU, for example, architects and engineers work with the building committee, which includes faculty members and students.

Instead of an illegal hot plate in the closet and a phone down the hall, many universities now offer full or partial kitchens in independent living quarters, and community centers or gym facilities in residence halls. In the works at Fontbonne College is a combination residence hall and performing arts center. At MU, residence hall kiosks allow students to check their e-mail on the way to class. "Everyone is fully aware of the importance of first impressions. A good program with a good facility certainly helps attract students," says Penton.

Leguillow stresses the importance of maintaining interior design standards and unifying buildings through understated colors and finishes that complement the historic character of the campus.

Despite different interpretations of how colleges and universities will look, the needs of the student will be paramount. "The pool is smaller and the competition for good students has never been more dramatic," says Soleau.

The History of Traditions

* The original campus residential model is derived from the monastic cell of the Middle Ages. Designed for sleeping and studying, these monastic model rooms had few social amenities.

* In the 12th and 13th century, some universities adopted a village and city housing model, which meant students found their own housing in the surrounding community. Student life was largely removed from academic studies.

* In the collegiate cloister model, seen at Cambridge and Oxford, students and teachers resided together in a single, compact community on campus. Student life was heavily monitored under this model.

* At some early American colleges, a large, single building was used to house all campus activities. The edifice model centralized student life, encouraging a sense of community.

* The American dormitory model, developed for Yale in 1792, is a suite for housing four students, two in each bedroom with a common living area.

* In 1817 for the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson developed the American single campus room model, where students and faculty were integrated. It flanked a common green.


Home at Last

In a fine example of adaptive reuse, the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID) has reclaimed two disparate structures and formed a usable, unified space for its approximately 700 students. This new home, designed to facilitate the craft and art of interior design, will be a jumping off point for design professionals for generations to come.

In 1994, the college moved out of a midtown office building into the historic district on the Upper East. "(The first building) was a fancy horse hot el, a high-rise with a hay loft. The other was a garage, build in the 1920," explains Hugh Hardy, partner at New York City-based architect Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates.

While the 70th Street building's structure (the former stable) presented some challenges - for example, it still had ramps for moving horses into stalls - its solid structure was actually a benefit. "The good thing was that the structure was so sound because holding up hay is heavy stuff. we were able to relocate the library and support the weight of book stacks," says Hardy. The new library has computers with Internet access and a new computer-aided design (CAD) center.

Originally intended to house the college's new graduate program, the 69th Street building (the former garage) now contains administrative offices and a public gallery. Conversely, the 70th Street building is devoted to education. "The result is an inspirational new campus for the benefit of our students," says Inge Heckel, NYSID president. The reorganization led to room for additional seminar and studio spaces; a new bookstore, student center, and more.

Proving that an understated, neutral background doesn't have to be plain-Jane vanilla, the walls in the stairwell and the gallery entrance are a sensuous honed Italian plaster. Blessed with generous windows, daylight pours into the facility. The staircase in the 69th Street building was the exception to the rule. To delight students and faculty, this prominent feature has one wall of patterned metal shingles in silver; fluorescent lights illuminate the wall. Warm reds, blues, greens, and creams unify both structures.

The reaction to the reorganization and renovation has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Heckel. With a new open-to-the-public gallery displaying art, interior design, and architecture, NYSID will inspire a new generation of students and the general public far into the future.

Regina Raiford ( is senior editor at Buildings magazine.
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Title Annotation:reshaping university interiors to meet students' needs; includes related articles on history of campus residential model and New York School of Interior Design's buildings
Author:Raiford, Regina
Date:Nov 1, 1998
Previous Article:Proactive design.
Next Article:Flexibility and aesthetics, head to toe: modular floors and ceilings are new standards in today's technology-driven workplace.

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