Explore the profound influence of architecture on campus identity in our latest podcast episode, where architects Kent Lutz and Brent Koch delve into the nuances of crafting spaces that reflect the ethos and spirit of educational institutions. Dive into the intersection of design, culture, and community in shaping vibrant campus landscapes.

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Episode Transcript

Skyler: Welcome to another episode of laying the foundation.

Skyler: Welcome everybody to another episode of the laying the foundation podcast. My name is Skylar and I am your host. And today we're going to be talking with two of our principal architects here at CMBA architects. We've got Brent from our Sioux city office. Brent, welcome to the show.

Brent: Thanks Skylar.

Skyler: Absolutely. And then we have Kent from our Des Moines office. Thanks, Skylar. Happy to be here. Absolutely. Absolutely. Super happy to have both of you. It'll be kind of interesting to have the rhyming names kind of as an ongoing thing during this entire podcast, but I'll do my best to make sure that I'm clear so that our audience knows who's talking.

Skyler: So perfect. So today, the topic that we are going over is kind of the concept of campus identity. We're talking about higher education, colleges, universities, so on and so forth. And we're talking about campus identity. What kind of makes each college campus, its own kind of person or own brand or whatever the case.

Skyler: And so kind of the primary question that I want to lead off of is when it comes to design of college campuses and the buildings and the spaces involved in all of these, uh, these areas, how are we as well, you guys as architects, Shaping that overall identity and kind of that character of the college.

Skyler: Like what are some of the key areas that sort of, uh, go into what we, or what you guys do as architects, uh, when it comes to designing those spaces, that kind of attribute to that campus identity. I can go ahead and start out

Kent: trying to answer that question, Skylar. I think one of the most important things we do as designers, um, when we're working on a campus is to know that we're supporting the, um, mission.

Kent: Of the school or university that we're working for and and try to weave that into our designs. Um, an example with that, with that would be like creating an opening and welcoming environments, you know, where all people are welcome. And, and to me, that means that, you know, things need to be open and bright, not lots of closed doors, lots of glass for transparency.

Kent: Um, you know, uh, lots of different, different ways that people can use the space because not everybody uses space the same way. And, and. Also, um, everybody comes from different backgrounds, so, you know, um, we're not a monoculture as a country and so everybody, um, you know, has a different definition of a living room, for instance, and what that means to them and, and to make sure that you sort of include that in your design thoughts that the experience can be the same for everybody, sort of, no matter where you're coming from and what your background is.

Skyler: Absolutely. Yeah. And, and that's going outside of just, we're not even just talking about classrooms, we're talking dormitories, we're talking common areas, we're talking, uh, meal spaces, things along those lines, right? Like, I mean, this goes way outside of just the classroom itself.

Brent: Yeah, definitely on the way outside the classroom.

Brent: Cause, uh, you know, students come to a campus and they're usually living on campus. They're not only, you know, learning, but yeah, living. Yeah. Playing on campus. So those are kind of the three things we a lot of times look at, and each one kind of serves its own purpose and also helps to identify that campus.

Brent: And then a lot of times, um, you know, just the campus itself, you know, a lot of the campuses we work with have been around for, well, a hundred years. So there's a lot of times there's a precedent already on campus. You know, we want to take a look at what's already there and, you know, Take a look at what, uh, Kent kind of mentioned it, you know, what values or branding that the campus already has in place.

Brent: So try to play off that and don't want to go too far, but maybe that's what they want. So listen to what they're looking for. Um, and yeah, just kind of help tie in that story with, you know, the, the years that they've been in, uh, been around and kind of incorporate all that into what they're, what they're looking for.

Skyler: Yeah, absolutely. So out of curiosity, just kind of my own, this is a little bit outside of the questions that I had sent you guys ahead of times, but we had talked about kind of preserving the concept of tradition when it comes to these colleges that are, you know, hundreds of years old or whatever the case, how do we sort of bridge that, um, tradition, which might involve some, maybe either older design concepts or maybe even older, um, You know, design shapes and things like that, things that are kind of a little bit less, and I hate to use the word trendy necessarily, but kind of along those lines, um, how do we bridge that to newer technology, newer, um, things that we know are better for the student learning experience or bringing people together and unifying them?

Skyler: Like, how do, how do we do that while still preserving their kind of traditional, whether that be branding or whatever else?

Kent: One of the great things about higher ed clients is they usually have a stock of, um, older buildings. It's like a time capsule of history, um, from when, from when they were founded up until, you know, today.

Kent: And, um, there's a lot of nostalgia. As you alluded to, that's attached to these buildings. Um, so in a lot of cases, we're not knocking them down because, um, people would stop donating money to the university if their, if their favorite building, um, were to be removed. But at the same time, it's, it's a burden.

Kent: Somewhat to the university because it's sometimes really hard to reuse some of these older buildings because times definitely have changed. Um, but there's definitely creative ways to do that. Um, and we've done it many times and I, I think the challenges, um, deciding, uh, what makes the building historic.

Kent: Especially on the, especially on the inside and just pass the obvious stuff, you know, the tower or the, or, you know, the entryway and all these things, but, um, on the inside, um, kind of understanding those historical details and trying to maintain those as best as possible. But then at the same time, you know, it still has to be a useful structure.

Kent: For the 21st century and that there is a balance there and it can definitely be done and it definitely takes a, um, thoughtful, um, deliberate design process and working with the university to do that.

Skyler: Yeah, absolutely. So just for, to help start painting a picture for those that might be listening and, uh, whether they might be maybe students that are trying to better understand this whole concept that we're talking about, um, or, you know, people that are maybe unfamiliar with architecture that are trying to learn.

Skyler: What are some examples of architecture features or styles that you guys have seen from some of the projects that we've worked on, um, that are kind of those iconic or emblematic, um, to these particular universities that we've, we've kind of implemented within our designs, uh, when we've done projects for them?

Brent: I don't know if it's, you know, features, but a lot of times, like Kent said, you know, that the campus itself kind of tells a story, you know, through the, the different the buildings that they have. And, you know, when that. Depending on when they were built, and I think trying to, you know, if we have a new design or, or, um, renovating an existing building, because, you know, that's a lot of times that's what happens on a college campus.

Brent: You know, they have a building, um, the inside, or it may not fit the function. It was originally designed for, but, um, it's still an asset to them. And, you know, they're always good stewards and college fundings. Just. You know, there's always, it's always hard to find funding for certain projects. So buildings do get repurposed and reused for different purposes, I guess.

Brent: And then, um, so, you know, trying to keep some of those existing features while updating it. Um, education has obviously changed probably since, you know, I, you know, It's been evolving and, you know, it's requiring different spaces, um, but maybe keeping some of those historic or maybe more prominent features, um, also just kind of using similar materials to what may have been used in the past on a newer project kind of helps tie that back into the existing ones up at, uh, Northwestern college.

Brent: And, you know, they, we, uh, we designed a new. Uh, library or learning commons for them, and then, uh, we did end up repurposing their previous building into a different function. So we took the old library, constructed a new one, moved everything out of that, and then they repurposed this one into some offices, some student program areas.

Brent: And, you know, one of the things they did was, it's kind of a major thoroughfare between the north side of campus and the south side, and then kind of that direct hallway or corridor through there, they've, they've. Kind of told the Northwestern story on the walls with different photographs and, you know, any current events that may be going on.

Brent: So it's a place that gets a lot of traffic. It's in Iowa. It gets cold. So students will cut through the building and it's a great spot for that. And it just helps, it helps the students understand maybe a little bit more about, you know, where Northwestern was and, you know, where they came from a little more history of the campus.

Skyler: Yeah, absolutely. Kind of taking a new feature that has sort of a usability, but then adding in aspects to kind of relate it back to the college and its story. So awesome. Very cool. Jumping over to kind of something that you talked about earlier, Kent, which is sort of that, Um, the campus design influencing the experience and the perception of, uh, the students at the very least, uh, you mentioned, you know, kind of keeping areas open, keeping areas bright, you know, lots of windows and things like that.

Skyler: Are there any other kind of key features that we often like to design with to kind of create those environments and create that sort of positive experience? Whether that be for students, but also looking at faculty and staff, um, and obviously. You know, perspective students, of course, too, who are coming in and saying, do I want to go here or do I want to apply for somewhere else?

Kent: Yeah, I think, I think one of the big things that we do that people probably don't ever even see is, you know, design designing for change. Um, just, just our, my experience over the last 20 years is there's been a huge difference in what spaces look like today than they even did 20 years ago. And making spaces that are easily adaptable or changeable without.

Kent: knocking the building down and starting over is a, is a huge thing. Um, the other thing I would say is that, you know, we never really used to talk much about the faculty and staff. Um, you know, they were just sort of there and, you know, their needs weren't really that's important. But when you think about it, The attraction of faculty and staff is just as difficult as attracting students and, um, and they're typically there a lot longer than four years, four or five years.

Kent: And so like those needs being considered and, and sort of looking at it from not only graduate undergraduate, but looking at staff and faculty is, is, um, and what their needs are, has been a huge game changer in that 20 years I was just talking about.

Skyler: Absolutely. I've seen that a lot. It's just kind of this, this need for staff and this shortage of staff and things like that.

Skyler: So the last thing that you want is to obviously have a campus that your staff is unhappy at and not wanting to stick around and work there for sure. So what were you, uh, what were you going to say?

Brent: Well, I think, uh, another one of, you know, those spaces we talked about that may help students give that sense of belonging, um, is maybe the ones, you know, that aren't.

Brent: Absolutely. As, um, thought of, but, you know, we, you know, the, the labs and the classrooms are all important spaces, but, you know, those connectors between those spaces, you know, how are students getting in like the corridors, those, um, kind of breakout spaces that, you know, we're trying to do more in some corridors.

Brent: So as, you know, you maybe just be sitting, reading a book, studying, just waiting for the next class, you maybe have a chance of running into a friend or somebody, you know, and just building that community, that connection. Um, I think. You know, you get to get that feeling like you belong at that place and then that really, really attributes to, um, or contributes to the, you know, student success, you know, finishing their degree if they have that connection to that space.

Brent: And so just trying to design in some of those kind of collaboration or meeting spaces that just happened to be on the main thoroughfare through, you know, on the way to class or all the way to cafeteria, something like that. So. I think those spaces are maybe not as thought of as much, but are still very important.

Kent: Absolutely. As I say, and that became really obvious after COVID, as Brent mentioned, because, you know, not only was it where it was everyone in home for so long, right? And we started to really embrace remote learning and distance learning at the collegiate level. Then we had to make spaces that It made you want to be on campus, right?

Kent: And said, Hey, this is way better than sitting in my apartment on my laptop. I want to be here.

Brent: Exactly. Well, you know, that's where that real learning, you know, not just in the classroom or the lab, but you know, it's that discussing ideas with your classmate or friend outside of the class that, you know, uh, maybe you're getting together to study, run into some other people and you know, it's, uh, it's.

Brent: It's bouncing that ideas off of each other and, and just challenging those thoughts, each of you may have, you know, where that learning comes in that interaction and, and learning.

Skyler: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's a community, right? It's all kind of like a, a sustained community within this college campus. And we want to encourage the opportunity for that community to do exactly what a community does, which is open up those opportunities to collaborate, to learn with other people, uh, alongside other people.

Skyler: And honestly to have. Even the students teach students and students teach professors. It's not all just, you know, going to class and sitting down for a lecture. There's a, there's a lot more opportunity for learning and growth and development when you make the community an actual community for sure.

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Skyler: To learn more about our available positions, visit the careers page at CMBAarchitects. com and apply to join the CMBA team. Kent, you mentioned earlier, uh, kind of designing for future design, right? Like designing a space so that in the future, rather than having to knock down walls, they can kind of redesign it based on changes across the board.

Skyler: Um, and I think that kind of also ties into the idea of sustainability, green design, things along those lines, which obviously is a big, uh, topic. These days, you know, how can we reduce our carbon footprint? How can we again, build sustainably? So are there any other interesting kind of, um, concepts that we use as architects to create those designs that are inclusive and beneficial for, um, green design and sustainability and all that kind of stuff?

Kent: Sure. I mean, I think there's a lot of, um, carbon buildings are carbon intensive to construct. And so like, like I mentioned earlier, not tearing them down as a very green thing to do if they can be repurposed. Um, and then on top of that, obviously, you know, we're, we're sort of the low hanging fruit to me is like high efficiency mechanical systems and these kinds of things.

Kent: But as, as architects, we can also, you know, deal with some, some, um, what I call low hanging sustainable fruit, which would be building orientation. You know, and maybe not having your entrance to the building in a colder climate climate face north northwest, um, maybe not having huge large expanses of glass that face to the southwest, these kinds of things, you know, there's, those are the easy kinds of things that we can do.

Kent: And then obviously, you know, um, as we talk about, uh, getting to net zero buildings, these kinds of things. The, you know, we pay extra special attention to the envelope of the building and, and the, the insulation values of the walls and the roof. So yeah, it's, it's a whole big picture and we have to work with our consultant team and the users and everyone involved to make it happen.

Kent: But I think what's great about sustainability, especially at a college campus, is it's more of an expectation now, um, than, than it was in the past. And I think that's great. You'll see that embrace the, that client group embrace sustainability more for a couple of reasons. One, I think it talks to the, um, sort of the goals and the, you know, the guiding principles of most universities and also, um, honestly they build for tomorrow.

Kent: Right. Most university buildings, you know, most university buildings are expected to last 50 to 100 years and they know that they're going to be paying for the utilities of that building and the upkeep and maintenance costs for that time too. And they can see long term what that really means. So it also affects their bottom line.

Skyler: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, these students are coming in and they're having expectations from the colleges. You're going to, you're going to build me to be the adult, the working, whatever the Tomorrow, I want to make sure that your campus is also trying to strive for that, you know, the better world and students are definitely a lot more conscious about it and they have a lot more, a lot higher expectations as far as I want my college to be, you know, proactive towards being more sustainable and being more environmentally friendly with their, with their students.

Skyler: Stuff, just everything, their buildings and everything else. So yeah, absolutely. And obviously that's really exciting to see. I think that's really cool to, you know, just even something is something you wouldn't think about, which is like, what way is this facing and knowing kind of the environment of the area and what sort of temperatures and what sort of, you know, the wind and everything else and how that all factors into, um, the utilities costs and everything like that, like a lot of very clever.

Skyler: Areas within that, that some people wouldn't think of, most people wouldn't think of if they were not in architecture for sure.

Brent: And I think kind of going along with that, the facilities are, you know, gotta be one of the bigger expenses, um, for a, for a campus. Cause you know, there's, there's a lot of space that they have in that inventory.

Brent: There's a lot of, so I can't mention anything like mechanical system wise or energy efficiency, they can reduce that initial or that. You know, sustained costs that they have, you know, every month. Um, the other thing is to go along with, you know, maybe sustainability would be durability. I know if we can make, um, the buildings as durable as possible, that just helps less things that they may need to fix.

Brent: Students aren't always the most light thing on buildings and, uh, you know, durability can help reduce some of those costs as well. Absolutely.

Skyler: Yeah. You start getting into the. Especially the dormitories and things like that. Students can be, yeah, pretty, pretty tough on some of the college assets. Awesome.

Skyler: So, uh, again, kind of jumping back to something, Kent, you had mentioned earlier with the whole idea of, you know, not every person's living room is, is the same as everybody else's living room. Um, this concept of diversity and obviously the campus identity needs to be something that's inclusive to all these different students.

Skyler: and very diverse student populations. Um, it can be anything is, you know, this guy's coming in from our local area to, we have international students that are coming in. How are we designing things to be able to be inclusive for this very diverse student

Kent: population? That's a really good question. You know, we have kind of, we think about it, um, in one of our most recent projects at the college of education at the university of Iowa is just sort of meeting people where they are.

Kent: So, you know, um, Just, just having a basic understanding that, um, the more you can provide different ways to do the same thing, the more of a chance that you're going to have to meeting those student needs. And, and what I mean by that is, you know, not everybody studies in the same way. So some people want to study and they're fine studying in the, at a big library table in the middle of an open room.

Kent: And some people, um, you know, would like to find a nook. Uh, right, or a small quiet area to study in. And the more diversity you can have in that, I think really sort of answers, answers that call for students for as far as from a study environment, um, from a learning environment, it's a lot of the same thing, right?

Kent: So a classroom that we design in 2024 looks a lot different than the ones we did even in 19 or 2019. Like it's constantly evolving. And I think technology is sort of. Honestly, just technology is sort of leveling that playing field a little bit as far as the students today kind of coming in with that technology background, I think, I think I saw a statistic somewhere where, um, it's a pretty high percentage of the world that has a smartphone.

Kent: Oh, wow. Okay. It is higher than I ever would have guessed of the world's population has a smartphone in their pocket. So like that's, that's one sort of common ground that we've all now, we all now have. Is we know how to use a smartphone.

Skyler: Absolutely. And that opens up a lot of opportunities for sure. And obviously colleges and everybody else need, you know, kind of want to evolve into that.

Skyler: If everybody has one, then obviously I want to be accessible to them through that medium. Uh, no, it's that

Brent: variety like Kent was saying. Um, Like you said, no one learns in the same way. And then we, depending on if you're, uh, for your institution or we do a lot of community college work. So you have a variety of different ages, even in, you know, true people of going back.

Brent: So, uh, you got to take that into consideration. And that was a variety of places. And then flexibility, you know, just having the classrooms be able to adapt to whatever might be coming up next, um, easily and, uh, be able to provide, uh, even faculty. Faculty one. Don't all teach the same. So just having that flexible classroom for adapting to the different teaching methods that they may be wanting to do.

Brent: And yeah, more collaboration in those classrooms are happening now. And then we're five, 10 years ago. So variety and flexibility, I think.

Skyler: Oh, absolutely. Yep. Those are the words of the game for sure. I know I was just talking to somebody in a previous podcast episode. I think it was in the K 12. kind of academic region.

Skyler: And I, they were also talking about, you know, obviously maximizing the opportunity for the classroom to grow with the technology. And I said, whatever happened to smart boards. So I feel like when I was in college, which wasn't like that long ago, everybody was trying to do smart boards. And then now it's just, they're gone.

Skyler: I don't know what happened, but maybe that's just me getting old. Um, they're still

Kent: around Skyler. They're still, they are still around. They are still around, um, you know, I'm only familiar with them because of that college of education project I was talking about. Um, they're teachers, teaching teachers, and apparently there's still plenty of them in the K through 12.

Kent: Uh, world because they talk about them all the time and like we use them kind of in tandem with the rest, the rest of the technology in the room. So it's kind of a training tool, but I, as recently as last year, I've seen them.

Skyler: Okay. Okay. So they're still out there. All right. They must still be in 12. Gotcha.

Skyler: Yes, that's right. Okay. Awesome. All right. I was just curious. And maybe I was just hanging around with people in the education department too much. And, and they were the ones that were getting really excited about them then that, that would kind of make sense. So, but I was just kind of been curious. So are there any situations in the projects that we've done where.

Skyler: The college had kind of a preexisting, maybe identity or an aspect of their identity that they kind of wanted to shift away from. And then we were able to be a part of that project where we helped them shift away from that. Is that ever something that we've kind of come across? Um, I mean,

Kent: I think about that very thing, um, with all of our work at the main library at the university of Iowa, um, they, they, they were known for that place.

Kent: That was a giant book warehouse and where you, and where you went to do quiet study. Yeah. And, and you would be shushed if you spoke out loud, right. That like chip, typical traditional library. And, and yes. And if you've been in a modern collegiate or even a municipal library, you know, that that's not what libraries are today.

Kent: No. And so that the whole thing about it's going to be okay. We're going to let people bring food. into the library. We're going to let people talk out loud without someone shushing them in the library. It's like this whole sort of mind shift. And it was mostly the library faculty, the librarians themselves that sort of had to make this big change in their mind that this is going to be okay to do, to do in this building and, and, um, a huge shift for them.

Kent: Uh, not the stuffy old library of old. With the big reading room in the windows, right?

Skyler: Right. Absolutely. It's kind of like what Brent was mentioning, you know, these are collaborative spaces. Why are we treating them the way that they're not, you know, meant to be if, if it's meant to be a collaborative space, cause it's a big open space with lots of tables for students to sit around and work and study with, why are we turning it into a space where you go and sit in your, your spot and you be quiet?

Skyler: We don't want to hear from you. Uh, don't make a, uh, any noise. Don't work with anybody. be quiet, do your thing. Why, why would we do that? And I think that's really awesome that, you know, kind of the shift away from that realm.

Brent: Yeah. I think libraries are kind of serving more functions. Um, you know, they still have the books, they still have that quiet study area, but you know, maybe that's kind of further in the back, but can't mention, yeah, we'll let you bring food in while we've been putting like cafes and coffee areas with, with, uh, You know, treats and smoothies and, you know, things inside libraries themselves to kind of get that, I may go study a little bit, have a coffee, but, you know, if I see someone or my friends, I'm going to go talk to them and, you know, it's a good meeting spot for, for people.

Brent: And then, um, again, goes back to that variety. Maybe there's a quieter spot. We can go grab a group study area and. You know, study for the up our next upcoming test or I didn't want to really focus on this on myself and so maybe an individual study rooms where I want to be. So, yeah, writing those different spaces for different types of activities.

Skyler: Absolutely. And I mean, usually a lot of times I know, um. I went to, uh, University and we had, you know, soundproof rooms in the library. So obviously if you did want that kind of quiet space, that was an option. You could check out one of those rooms and close the doors and just drowned out all the noise.

Skyler: So nothing to worry about there, but otherwise, yeah, absolutely. Make a collaborative space, a collaborative space and make quiet spaces as an option. Like you said, Brent, keep that variety. So awesome. I think that honestly takes care of the majority of my questions. Is there anything that you guys wanted to mention before we, we close things out about this concept of architecture pairing with the campus identities?

Skyler: I mean, there, there, I mean, we've, we see it all

Kent: right. Like at campuses, I see, I feel like I see from A to Z, as far as some campuses want to list, like, just like hit you over the head that you're, you know, you're where you are. Right. So everywhere you look, it's the school colors and the names and all these things down to where, um, they want to the opposite of that, which is we want the spaces to support the mission, um, of the university.

Kent: And, you know, it's great if people, you know, know that they're in the same space, but we don't want to use the school colors anywhere or any branding or marketing at all. So it's like, I I'm starting to see that lean more towards the using branding and marketing everywhere. Um, then it did in the past, but, um, it's, it's kind of a really interesting thing.

Kent: And I, the other thing I would say is that, um, you know, that community that, that the spaces that we create support, um, has just as much to do with the campus identity, I think. As the branding and marketing stuff.

Skyler: Absolutely. Designing for the people, for the people that are going to be using those spaces and for the people that are going to be involved with those spaces.

Skyler: So awesome. Well, thank you both for being on the show with me and talking about these, you know, higher ed and, and campus design and campus identity. I really appreciate having you guys as, as these such experts that you are being able to share your knowledge and share your experiences, uh, with those who listen to the podcast.

Skyler: Thanks, Skyler.

Brent: Yeah, thank you, Skyler. Absolutely.

Skyler: If you'd like to find out more about the Laying The Foundation Podcast, you can head over to any podcast streaming platform such as Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, and others. You can also find out more about CMBA architects through social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Skyler: Additionally, you can head over to the CBA website@cmbarchitects.com. If you're an architecture or design professional or an intern looking for an internship within those fields, please be sure to check out our website and click on the careers tab to find out more about what opportunities we offer.

Skyler: This has been another episode of the laying the foundation podcast. We'll see you nex

Post by CMBA
June 13, 2024