Friday, March 2, 2012

Project Spotlight: Rappahannock Community College

"Learning happens everywhere"

Community colleges are the heart of the American higher education system, developing the knowledge, skills, and continuing education that puts Americans to work, invigorates job growth, and inspires entrepreneurs. As the need for community colleges grows, and the needs of today’s students change, the methods of instruction and the types of spaces for facilitating learning too have required change.

In 2011 KSA Interiors teamed with NBJ Architecture in helping Rappahannock Community College address this need for change by envisioning the learning environment for two existing campus locations. Following the leadership and vision of school president Dr. Elizabeth Crowther, our team worked with her department heads to develop environments that are devoted to “students first” and adhere to the idea that learning happens everywhere. Gone are segmented spaces, narrow empty corridors, and rigid definitions of space that defined the original facilities. In their place was created a flowing and undulating learning environment inspired by the beauty of the costal river and middle peninsula. Organic shapes soften the delineation between spaces - ideal locations for casual collaborative interactions and inspired discussion areas. Wall graphics, design features, and color schemes reinforce this abstract concept and assist the deliberate space plan which moves students through the space at various paces, narrowing or widening to move students through some areas quickly, or encouraging them to stop and share interactions in collaborative “pools”.

The design team was challenged to develop a single solution which could be universally applied to two nearly identical 70’s era educational facilities. Terrazzo floors and exposed block walls typical of the period were replaced and or revitalized with a warm and engaging palate of colors and materials. The most important aspect of the design solution, however, was to bring learning out of the classroom and into the many adjacent collaborative spaces. At the center of this idea that learning happens everywhere is the development of the “Egg”, a central collaborative area envisioned to allow students to collaborate, dine, engage, or simply hang out. Surrounded by half walls of varying height, shape and configuration, and defined by flexible furnishings also of varying heights and configurations, the delineation of the egg takes on a permeable or transparent perimeter engaging those both within and beyond the space.

The flexible and engaging solution developed for Rappahannock Community College, led members of the Virginia Community College System to comment after visiting the space, that “this is what our colleges should look like”, and that this was “a space to be proud of”.

KSA truly is proud to have had the opportunity to assist RCC in reimagining the learning environment, and to help promote learning outside of the traditional classroom.

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