Today we sit down for an insightful conversation with Interior Designer Cathy Koch and Architect Anna Bednarko as they share their expertise on designing spaces for higher education institutions. We'll be exploring the diverse range of spaces within colleges and universities, from classrooms to student lounges, and examine how each area contributes to the overall campus experience. Cathy and Anna emphasize that creating a vibrant campus culture goes beyond providing amenities; it's about fostering a sense of community and belonging. Tune in as we uncover the key principles and considerations in designing higher education spaces that inspire learning, collaboration, and personal growth.

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Episode Transcript

Skyler: Welcome to another episode of laying the foundation.

Skyler: Welcome everybody to another episode of laying the foundation podcast. I'm your host Skylar. And today joining me is Kathy, who is one of our amazing interior designers over in our Des Moines office. And Kathy, you've been on an episode before. Yeah. And then also we have Anna, who is one of our architectural designers and Anna, you've also been on one of our episodes before.

Skyler: So we got a couple of returning people, which is exciting. Yeah. Super glad to have you guys here. And today, what we're going to be discussing is kind of higher education and looking at Gen Z students who are starting to join colleges and universities and, um, finish high school and go from there and looking at what sort of trends or what sort of things that Gen Z.

Skyler: Are looking for is that Gen Z are, or Gen Z is, I'm not sure. I guess it would be is maybe, but whatever the case, the things that Gen Z is looking for as the, those individuals are, you know, kind of looking at these universities and looking to apply. So just kind of kick things off with the broad topic, and then we can kind of jump into some of the more specifics along the way.

Skyler: But what are. What are some things that Gen Z students are looking for when they're coming into these kind of higher education spaces? What sort of trends have we noticed as a, as an architectural firm? Yeah,

Cathy: I would say, you know, that recruitment and retention part is really important to universities right now because just they want to keep their enrollment numbers up and if they don't have enrollment, then they don't have.

Cathy: Funds coming in either from students. So that's a big part of the success. So what is that wow factor that students see when they come to campus, especially if they are focused on certain. Uh, careers they want to take or certain colleges are looking into. So, you know, even within the university, there can be competing, you know, with the college business, the college of education, you know, what.

Cathy: We do students want to go so creating spaces that are attractive and desirable to students is really important. And as we're discovering, as the generations are shifting what they're finding as important is shifting as well. So, um, I think research is still emerging, but a lot of what we're seeing is just, you know, even just, you know.

Cathy: spaces in general don't look like your standard education facilities anymore, which is really exciting. We're seeing them be more flexible, more hospitality, more comfortable, you know, just really focusing on what kinds of spaces do people want to spend time in and attract

Anna: them there. I would say to that point, I would say like also, um, just similar to the K 12 industry, you know, students want to be comfortable and have a variety of spaces that they can interact in.

Anna: So I think It's always a hard transition as you're moving from high school to your college career, and I think just being comfortable in this space, so like, as Kathy was saying, like, having a variety of different spaces that they can go and study or learn into kind of mimics what K 12 is to them.

Skyler: Yeah, absolutely.

Skyler: So when you say variety of spaces, what exactly are we talking about?

Cathy: I would say it's a blend of having areas where you can focus. So if you need to individually study for a test or get a paper done or homework, um, quiet areas for that, but then also active areas that you can meet up with your friends and have lunch, or you can work on a group project, because with the active learning model now, You're doing a lot more group work and, um, working with others on things versus doing individual work.

Cathy: But knowing that people also need areas for respite because, you know, when you're stressed or when you have things happening, you just sometimes want to go somewhere where it's quiet. So how do we create these spaces that are big and active and lively, but also have areas for focus and respite as well?

Anna: I'd say one project comes to mind that we actually worked on together, the Linguist Center. Um, at University of Iowa, um, we provided a big open common space that had an adjacent cafeteria so students could go and have their meals and they can also be in the commons, eat up with their peers, do homework.

Anna: There's a variety of different furniture pieces to that kind of help with the studying. Just again, if they wanted to be more focused, if they wanted to have a booth setting, they can be with their peers and we're going to project together. And then we also included a couple of group rooms that. They had access to different technology that they could throw anything that they had on their computer screen and work on a project

Skyler: together.

Skyler: Yeah, absolutely. So with the variety, this wide variety of spaces kind of for more specific purpose, I mean, is that going to increase? Do we see that kind of increasing the campus as a whole since, you know, buildings are going to have to either add on or are we seeing it more like takes existing spaces and sort of break them down into those variety of, of spaces with different purposes?

Cathy: That's a really good question. I would say up to this point, we've actually been doing a lot of remodel work to make this come to life, that some of the spaces that were designed 20, 30, 40 years ago, obviously just need to be updated. So, again, at Lingua Center, we knocked down a whole bunch of walls to just create a new, active, lively space, rather than things being so segmented throughout the building as they were originally designed.

Cathy: But I think, too, as we look at new buildings that we're designing as well, it can also Almost decrease the footprint because you don't need so many of these segmented areas spaces can be more multifunctional. You can have a big open area that you can push tables together to have a conference meeting, or you can pull them apart and put chairs in to have a lecture style.

Cathy: So I think. Thinking outside the box and having rooms not just have one function is really creating these multi purpose spaces as

Anna: well. Yeah, there's more efficiency I think when you're looking at it at a new building. Right. Um, you don't have to have as much like circulation space or corridors where like at Linguist we took out like their four foot corridors and now it's just this big open space where students can walk around and you know.

Anna: The open and so yeah, I think that culture is definitely

Skyler: shifting. Awesome. Okay. So then within these spaces, um, is there kind of a shift within the, the physical amenities that are usually offered within these spaces, you know, is there a change? And, and I know Kathy, you do a lot with like the furniture and stuff like that.

Skyler: Um, is there kind of a change in the trends as far as the fillings for these spaces and what Gen Z is looking for versus what might've already been there previously?

Cathy: Yeah, no, that's a good point, too, is that spaces really are changing. We keep referencing this link with center, but it's such a great reference project.

Cathy: We actually added a full service cafe into that building as well. So students can get coffee, lunch while they're studying in the open space, which is really exciting and also increases foot traffic through the building for them. So, yeah, that's really changed things, but even just thinking about, you know, even we're all kind of from the same age of school, or we went to school.

Cathy: We sat in a desk all day and that's just not the case anymore. So, even when you get into the classroom spaces, we're seeing a choice of seating in the classroom. So, different heights of desk. So you can have a seated height, or maybe a bar height or standing height instead. So, you can have that option if it is more of a lecture style, but then also having collaborative seating within the classroom.

Cathy: So, that way. You can work on your group work while your instructors in the room to help you with that. So we really work with the universities to make sure that we understand their curriculum so that the furniture is flexible but also suits the needs of that to make them desirable

Anna: spaces. I would say technology is a different form that we're actually that's being introduced like at all the universities especially I think when you get to college there's Again, that flexibility of maybe you have a remote class or you can be in person.

Anna: I know that some universities, they have students that may be traveling or they are farther away from the university. And I know that universities are trying to bring that in with their curriculum. Um, so technology has been integrated in certain classrooms where there's Multiple TV screens that they can either, um, share a zoom meeting so then they can interact with the individuals that are on the call, but also then they can share, um, maybe they have different screens that they want to share with different types of learning or like different presentations.

Anna: Um, I know that technology is also allowed that so they can break out into small groups with the different amounts of. Uh, tv screens that they've got. So I, I would think that technology is a really big part that Gen Z's getting into. And that's not just in the classrooms, but even open study spaces too.

Anna: Yeah,

Skyler: absolutely. And I would imagine, you know, with the rise of, like you said, zoom and teams and the ability to kind of, Have this like video online to be able to stream your, your class or whatever the lectures that you maybe aren't able to go to, or whatever the case, do we see like, do we see like classrooms starting to kind of maybe shrink a little bit in design?

Skyler: Um, as that rise in technology is coming through, there's maybe less need for students to be in the classroom, or does it seem like they still kind of want to promote that idea that students come to the class physically, if possible, versus necessarily wanting to have people, like, You know, remote based on the size of the classroom shrinking or something along those lines.

Skyler: I honestly

Anna: think it depends on what type of instructing that the professor wants to do. Um, and just thinking at like a general university class. They just want to make it flexible. So then any professor can be assigned to whatever room and make the room function for how they want to teach the class and just the different types, you know, the different subject types to the.

Cathy: Add on to that conversation, too, is that from an instructor perspective, you know, universities are having trouble finding enough staff to teach other classes. So we're also seeing that technology be used to have remote instructors teaching an in person class. So that way, they can leverage again, that recruitment and retention of not asking people to relocate, but they can teach their classes remotely.

Cathy: We've got clients doing that as well.

Skyler: Yeah. So kind of two sides of the coin, right? There's the side of like, I can't make it to class today, but at least I can still get the lecture by, by getting in remote versus let's have the person giving the lecture, be somebody that can do so remotely. And let's have a classroom that is designed to work with that.

Skyler: So like you said, all the TV screens and everything like that to really make it visible, to make it audible and all the other good stuff. So very cool. Very cool. Yeah.

Cathy: Technology's changing the platform for that, which is really exciting. Yeah.

Skyler: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's cool to see as technology progresses.

Skyler: Yeah. How it's getting kind of integrated into even, you know, K 12 classrooms, but obviously we're talking higher ed for sure. So what about, um, kind of the culture side of colleges? So you have, you know, like you mentioned before these old buildings, you know, some, some of these colleges have existed for a hundred years plus, how are they taking this?

Skyler: Uh, movement into Gen Z and, and the new generation and what they're looking for and how are they adjusting kind of the design culture and changing it for the new generation? I

Anna: would say that it's, they're kind of focusing on more like equity and inclusion, I guess, just like examples are like locker rooms aren't gender specific anymore.

Anna: I think again, that's 12 is also experiencing, but, um, They're, you know, not assigned gender locker rooms flexible for individuals, um, that can use the space.

Cathy: Um, and even just making sure all of the spaces are accessible. So that way, you know, if you are wheelchair bound or you are blind or you are deaf, you still have full access to everything that a standard student does.

Cathy: Um, you know, a lot of classrooms, they get the. The hearing technology, so that students who are deaf can easily tune in and hear the teacher clearly making sure that the variety of seating also fits the needs of disabled students. So they don't just always have to sit at the same table. They can pick any table in the space, or they can transfer into a lounge chair easily if they desire.

Cathy: So, you know, there is that other level of. diversity and inclusion and making sure that everybody is comfortable in the spaces rather than things being very sterile and institutional and cookie cutter, I guess, as you would call it. So, you know, there's that other layer of design thought that we put into these spaces to make sure that everybody feels like they can fully utilize the spaces.

Skyler: Yeah, absolutely. And that's so important, obviously, because you're going to have all kinds of students that are coming in. Back in the old day, we didn't have all the knowledge and the studies and everything to be able to develop for that. But we're, we're gaining that insight and we're growing and, or at least we're trying to, so awesome.

Skyler: That's good. That's good. What about, um, cause I know this has kind of been something, a big topic on everybody's minds, which is like sustainability and the environmental side and the act. Um, The, uh, effect that, you know, these buildings and the energy they're using and all that kind of stuff has on the environment.

Skyler: How are we taking some of the, the studies and the information and science that we have now and putting that into the college spaces that we're designing to kind of help with our, you know, minimize our footprint or their footprint or whatever the case.

Cathy: Yeah, you bet. I could start on the interior side of that first.

Cathy: So, you know, materials is a huge part of that and all of the flooring and. Okay. Wall covering paint, furniture finishes, furniture, and for me it's really thinking about selecting pieces that are going to be durable over the long term so they don't end up in the landfills. Right. A lot of our manufacturers that we've worked with and specify are already really focused on that sustainability piece and making sure that they're using recyclable materials.

Cathy: Um, Doing things that are good for the environment. We're specifying thing, um, products that are made in America. They're not coming overseas. So reducing that carbon footprint. Uh, so really, you know, knowing that my manufacturer partners are focused on that sustainability part already. I, as a designer, like to focus on making sure the right products are selected for the space so that they withstand the test of time.

Cathy: Cause that's the last thing I want to see is a flooring product that's failed and ends up in the landfill or. Furniture that doesn't last for all of the wear because, you know, students are hard on things. They just naturally we know that for the education world. So what are those products that are really going to last and stay in the building and be flexible and grow with the building and not just be tossed out over time?

Cathy: Absolutely. Attention architecture professionals, are you looking for an employment opportunity that will provide you with a wonderful work culture and a competitive pay rate? Look no further than CMBA Architects. Our firm offers flexible scheduling, a casual dress code, and a great work environment that will help you collaborate and succeed.

Cathy: Plus, who doesn't love having

Skyler: Fridays off to learn more about our available positions, visit the careers page at CMBA architects. com and apply to join the CMBA team. Okay. So let's talk about, you know, color lighting, things along those lines. Um, what, what is getting integrated? What are we looking at as far as, and I know we've talked about this before.

Skyler: We hate kind of using the word trend because trend kind of suggests like it's here for a little while and then it's going to be gone. And we like to. You know, long term design. Um, but what are we looking at as far as, you know, how, how science is kind of influencing the types of colors and lighting and things like that, that we're putting into the spaces that we're designing versus what's already there.

Cathy: Yeah, you bet. I think, you know, we keep the biophilia trends. There's the word again, uh, just really incorporating nature, but. With that too, with these remodeled projects we're doing, getting access to daylighting and outside, getting the outside elements and pulling them in is a huge game changer right now.

Cathy: For some reason, you know, I'll poo poo the architects from 20, 30, 40 years ago that they made all of these interior spaces with no access to the outside. So, I'd say that's a big trend for us right now is to just go in and blow out all these interior rooms and get as much daylighting throughout the building as possible.

Cathy: Yeah, even

Anna: if it's Not direct daylighting somehow getting that into the building because like again, we know that security is also a concern. So yes, I'm on different campuses. So just trying to modify the interior spaces to bring in that indirect light as much as possible. And then to your point about like, biophilia, like, there are many things out there that are saying that even if it's, Not colors, but textures that are throughout the building can also like just being exposed to that can also help with like just calming those who are learning and being more at ease.

Skyler: Yeah, yeah. Changing those spaces, you know, from that sort of psychological level, which is always so intriguing. Um, and then Anna, you mentioned security and I'm glad you brought that up. So what kind of security directions are we seeing when it comes to, uh, these colleges and universities? I mean, Gen Z is definitely seen their fair share of things that have happened within the school setting of, you know, dangers and hazards and things like that.

Skyler: How are we changing that, uh, sort of that narrative with New design and new technology and things along those lines.

Anna: I would say that access control on certain like the exterior doors has been like a really big, um, push for universities, um, even adding like security cameras, those security cameras, aren't going to be.

Anna: Like helpful in any certain situation. They're just going to give you a view of what's happening. I think having those present, um, is At the exterior of the building can also just, you know, have the individual that's, you know, potentially trying to break in or cause any harm. They see that and they're turned away by it.

Anna: Like, they are automatically seeing that and saying, Oh, I need to leave this alone. I think that's a big thing that we're seeing for security reasons. Yeah,

Cathy: even making sure that. Even most spaces have a dual access to get out of the space so that you can't get trapped in areas is also a big thing when we're looking at floor plans with a lot of our university clients is, you know, again, back to talking about these big open access spaces from a code perspective.

Cathy: It also needs to mean that, but from a safety perspective, are there multiple ways to be able to navigate the building so that you can. It's used the word escape, but get away from the danger rather than being trapped in spaces. So, you know, there's some strategy behind the planning of the floor plans to now to make sure that, um, students feel safe.

Cathy: It's a big deal.

Skyler: Yeah, absolutely. It very much is now jumping off of kind of that more intense topic. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Let's talk about, um, hands on learning. How are we developing like classrooms and stuff like that for like a bit more, um, active learning or hands on learning when it comes to, you know, Gen Z coming in there and they want to, they want to really jump into it.

Skyler: You know, we're maybe stepping a little bit less away or more away from, from lectures versus a bit more of a hands on approach.

Cathy: Yeah, you bet. I would say the biggest thing we're seeing is marker boards are going everywhere now. So, you know, we put marker boards on every wall we can possibly find. And then the furniture just being flexible so that they can create groupings around the marker boards as needed to give them that flexibility to do what they need to do to get their work done.

Cathy: Um, I think just making it easy for students to create the spaces they need to do the work they need to do is really key. Yeah. Flexibility everywhere. Yeah.

Skyler: I love that about the marker board. I've got a giant one. That's right here behind me that I'm where I'm sitting at the office and I'm like, Oh man, I just, this is the most useful thing, like computer shirt, whatever marker board.

Skyler: Oh man, I can get so much done with a marker board. It sounds crazy, but it's awesome. Yeah. So out of curiosity. And this is kind of just more of a me question, but like, what happened to smart boards? Do they still use those? Is that still something that they kind of integrate? Or is that kind of a trend that's kind of gone on the wayside?

Skyler: I

Anna: have a feeling that it's kind of going away. Um, we just installed one in a classroom recently where they're kind of going away from, um, those smart boards, but doing more of like a projector that's, it's a projector that can kind of record, um, it's mounted just above the marker board and it can actually record.

Anna: Um, and this is again for that flexibility. If you have a student that's, you know, remote, remote learning, um, it can record whatever the professor is writing on the marker board. I think that's more of a trend now. Yeah. Um, and again, with the technology,

Cathy: it's always evolving. It's always changing. Yeah. Yeah.

Cathy: So it's, you know, what is the next trend that's going to come? We don't know. So, um, I feel like I'm overusing the word flexibility, but making spaces so that they are ready for the future, because we don't know what it holds. Is it a new version of a smart board once this new technology, you know, goes out?

Cathy: We don't

Anna: know. Yeah, I would say I think it also just depends on the university. Yeah, for sure. Like some smart, like, I think, They automatically go to the smart board as like a, Hey, I want this because that's what's current or what they've seen. Um, so I think it just depends on the university too and what their wants

Skyler: are.

Skyler: Yeah, absolutely. It is kind of funny though. Like you have like this fancy technology of a smart board and everything it can do. And then we're like, yeah, but students want whiteboards. They want to be able to like marker it out, erase it super quick, all this other stuff. And now, like you had mentioned, the technology allows us to use a whiteboard.

Skyler: And still integrate it into sort of this digital setting. So I just think that's really cool. And it's also kind of just entertaining because I remember when I was, when I was in school, smart boards were like, we got to get ourselves a smart board. But, you know, who's, who's really using them all that much anymore.

Skyler: So I think that's, that's just kind of funny. That was more of a me question, but I digress.

Cathy: No, that's okay. I mean, even I'm not even that old. When I was in school, we used the projectors that the teachers used to write on the screen for it. Oh, on the little, you know, you don't see any of those anymore.

Skyler: No.

Skyler: Well, you do in like the storage closets or something. Yes, they're hidden somewhere. Yes. Yeah, exactly. Shut into a corner. Yeah. Well, awesome. Thank you guys both for, for sitting down with me and chatting with me about, you know, the Gen Z and what they're looking for in colleges and university. You guys have both worked on colleges and universities, as you mentioned.

Skyler: And I mean, like you guys are the experts, so you guys have done all sorts of cool stuff. And honestly, I wish I could. Get to go down. I don't, I wouldn't be able to contribute to the design at all, but I need to go down and see more of the, the university projects that we worked on and see some of the stuff that you guys have integrated in there, because that's always really exciting as somebody that graduated from a college, you know, obviously I have a little bit of background there.

Skyler: So, but Kathy, Anna, thank you both so much for first chatting with me about

Cathy: this. Of course. Thanks for the great discussion today, Skylar.

Skyler: Absolutely. Absolutely. And of course, thank you for listening. Uh, if you'd like to learn a little bit more about CMBA architects and what we do, you can do so by checking out our website at CMBAarchitects.

Skyler: com and you can see a whole bunch of pictures and information about the projects that we worked on, including our university projects, some of which Kathy and Anna both worked on. And if you want to see more pictures and some of the more current stuff that we're kind of putting out there, you can find us on social media, whether that be Facebook X LinkedIn or Instagram, and of course, don't forget to subscribe, follow whatever it's called, whatever you're streaming the laying the foundation podcast from so that you never miss an episode in the future, I'm your host Skylar.

Skyler: This has been another episode of laying the foundation. We'll see you guys next time.

Post by CMBA
April 4, 2024