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Is the industry ready for 2016?

When it comes to designing a new home or even extending an original home it can become a stressful endeavour. By taking the time to make sure that you hire the right architect, you can lessen the level of stress drastically. This process does not have to be painstaking or overly complex. There are eight questions that you should ask an architect before hiring them. The answer to these questions will provide the lucidity necessary to make an educated decision.

1. Do you like their current projects?

As a general rule, an architect's portfolio reflects their passion — revealing the type of projects that excites them; however, there are those times that an architect's portfolio is so diverse that it requires that you ask them about their latest projects to get an idea of where they are currently at.

2. Which projects represent their best work?

Imagine that you have become familiar with the work of a particular architect, and you have developed an affinity for several of their past projects. By asking the architect to share their best work it will allow for you to determine if you share the same ideas and inspirations.

3. What is the potential of my project?

After an architect has visited the potential site, or in the case of a remodelling project, walked through your home, ask them what they see happening with the project. One architect may want to emphasise the view while another may want to accentuate the landscaping. You are asking this question to determine if you and the architect at least have some ideas in common.

4. How do they manage the permit review and regulations process?

Actually, the methodology is not as important as timing in this particular area. Whether the architect prefers to use a meeting or a checklist is irrelevant; however, when they start the process is highly important. This should be done immediately after they have been assigned the project, not after the design is finished.

5. How do they document decisions, and is there a way that you can refer back to previous decisions?

There can be 100's of decisions that a client may have to make over the course of a project from room dimensions to glazing types. Unfortunately, with many architects, the only way to reference these decisions is in the final construction drawing; however, there are some architects who keep a user-friendly document that displays all of the decisions for easy referencing.

6. How will they manage your budget?

The vast majority of architects will provide a preliminary estimate for the cost of the project. It is important to get this before moving past the schematic phase of the project. It is also important to determine how the architect will ensure that the works are within the allowed budget.

7. Will they be actively involved during the construction phase?

The majority of the architectural profession has moved from a purely design and consultation practise into a more project management role, especially on smaller projects. You will want an architect who either, includes construction services as a part of the fee or at least offers it as an additional option. If this is not the case, it should send up an immediate red flag.

8. What is and is not included in the final price?

Simply getting the final price is not enough. You will need to understand what will be included and what you may end up paying extra for. If at all possible, attempt to get an all-inclusive estimate.

Asking these questions should provide a solid foundation on which you will be able to make an informed decision. Once your residential project is completed recommend checking out Modernize for home design ideas!

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Floating Cube 
The Quadreria Contemporanea (Contemporary Picture Gallery) of Molteni&C showcased with a new display concept by Ron Gilad and curated by Crist iana Colli. 

Inside M&C, the large-format multicultural, plural and bilingual periodical invented by Luca Meda for 10 years has been brooding, intimately and in secret, a photographic committee, Visual Art, which counterpoints every edition, every Furnishing and Design trade fair and show.

Ron Gilad
Cristiana Colli and Ron Gilad

The project was inaugurated in 2006, conceived and curated by Cristiana Colli, a gift that is inserted in the center of the magazine, a collection that is shared, accessible, diffuse.

So the Quadreria Contemporanea was a work in progress that has manifested the experience, the idea of collection, the style of collecting, the network of collectors unpredictable, hybrid, mobile. 

Now, from the M&C mega-mag, the collection arrives in Giussano, presented in a site specifically designed for Glass Cube, called “Floating Cube”, with a display concept by Ron Gilad.

A design statement sustained with conviction by the company, committed to every era – as documented by its eight-year-long history - in supporting contemporary culture, architecture, and design. A gift that is inserted in the center of the magazine: two-faced – side A and side B always, pulls out, an impossible object, a paradox to be displayed between two sheets of glass. A collection that is shared, accessible, diffuse. 

Travelling arm-in-arm around the world, in book shops, in archives, in air – suspended and held in place by fishing lines. A community of artists, glances, thoughts, intentions that make themselves available for contemplation. So the Quadreria Contemporanea – paradoxically in format yet coherent in its format – was a work in progress that has manifested the experience, the idea of collection, the style of collecting, the network of collectors unpredictable, hybrid, mobile. To connect the Molteni community – people, projects, objects – with the spirit of the times, the good vibrations of the communities, of the dialogues, of the landscapes. 

Now, from the M&C mega-mag, the collection arrives in Giussano, inside the Compound that since 2015 has housed the Molteni Museum, presented in a site specifically designed for Glass Cube, called “Floating Cube”, with a display concept by Ron Gilad. 

“A white cube at the heart of a glass one, floating above running water. A room without entrance or exit, an unexpected space for hanging art” said Ron Gilad. 

A space within an existing space, unexpected and floating on a few centimeters of water. A square volume that landed in the centre of the structure that becomes an art gallery, and that makes an edition of Glass Cube. 

Ron Gilad’s project transforms the exhibition space, embraces the layout of the images, allows this essential and monolithic form to become a platform for contemplation, also through the distance between the visitor and the work that maintains that public intimacy at the origin of the project and the photographic commissioning. 

There are twenty photographic works on display, with just as many Molteni&C products featured, created by Paola De Pietri (2007), Francesco Jodice (2008), Antonio Biasiucci (2009), Olimpia&Miro Zagnoli (2010), Alessandra Spranzi (2011), Barbara Probst (2012), Davide Pizzigoni (2013), Botto&Bruno (2014), Mario Carrieri (2015), Olivo Barbieri (2016). 

Floating Cube
10 anni 10 autori 10 opere
Curator: Cristiana Colli

Molteni Compound
Via Rossini 50
20833 Giussano (MB)

16 October 2017

Mon - Fri, 10.00 – 16.00
By appointment: museum@molteni.it 
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Front Elevation - Rendered Graphic
The glass house is condensed with multiple rooms of various functionalities and in order to balance the busyness, it is executed with minimalist approach. 

Transparent walls convey a sense of unity of internal areas, as well as wholeness with the external space and amplify the contrast between hot climate and the cool interior. 

For achieving a privacy in a single room, it may be skirted with remotely controlled white panels, spread with simplified oriental ornaments. 

Shadows casted by these traditional outlines augment the particular character of the house. 
The miniature waterfalls drop at the entrance door and in the backyard pool. Small gardens symmetrically break up the space adding organic atmosphere to the house.


Architecture: STIPFOLD
Project Leader: Beka Pkhakadze
Copywriter: Mika Motskobili

Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Type: Residential
Site: 3100 sq m 
Area: 700 sq m
Year: 2015
Status: In Progress



For more details head over to the STIPFOLD website.

You can also find out more about STIPFOLD on their Facebook and Twitter profiles.
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Rear Elevation - Rendered Graphic
The building's full-fledged relationship with natural light is exquisitely balanced with privacy. The roadside windows let daylight illuminate the living room and the second-floor bedrooms, but their positioning makes it impossible for an outsider to grasp interior activities. 

The roof is camouflaged with grass and for the house to be even more blended into the natural environment, it is constructed with black metalwork and wood. The entire structure is molded with concrete as a singular sculptural piece. 

The residence is situated at close range from the street, leaving the big portion of the territory at disposal of the back yard. The glass doors entering the yard slide horizontally, making the transition into nature seamless. 


Architecture: STIPFOLD
Project Leader: Beka Pkhakadze
Copywriter: Mika Motskobili
Location: Tbilisi, Georgia
Type: Residential
Area: 500 sq m
Year: 2017
Status: In Progress

Rear Garden - Rendered Graphic
Front Elevation - Rendered Graphic

Ground Floor Plan

First Floor Plan

For more details head over to the STIPFOLD website

You can also find out more about STIPFOLD on their Facebook and Twitter profiles
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A Pasadena architect has been elevated to the prestigious College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to the profession.

Gaylaird Christopher, principal architect and president of Architecture for Education Incorporated, Pasadena, California, was recognized as a professional who has advanced the science and art of planning and building by advancing the standards of architectural education, training or practice.

He was one 178 Architects recently honored with this highest level of membership at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2017 in Orlando, Florida. Out of a total AIA membership of more than 90,000, approximately 3% of members are recognized as fellows. The elevation to fellowship is conferred on Architects with at least 10 years of membership in the AIA. 

Excelling in his field throughout a career that spans 40 years, Christopher outlined the philosophy behind the body of his work as Inspiring students to excel and become lifelong learners.

"It is always my goal as an architect to inspire children to learn," Christopher said. "Every plan, building system, and detail provide a teaching moment for students, as architecture becomes their 3-dimensional textbook." 

His focus throughout his career has been to improve teaching through translation of curriculum into the built environment, he said.

hallmark of his notable career was the creation of the revolutionary Futures Planning Process, which includes students, educators, community, institutions, and businesses collaborating in the creative use of rich community resources. Contributors' input and ongoing involvement is essential and encouraged. Participants are challenged to look to the future and determine how local resources can best be utilized, multiplying learning options for students and benefiting the greater community. 

Students reach out in service to their community while new educational pathways are opened, as the community enriches learning for its students – in and out of the classroom, the architect said.

His design approach fostered the growth of his original firm, Wolff-Lang-Christopher in Rancho Cucamonga, as well as that of the California office of Perkins + Will, which he opened in Pasadena. While with that firm, he worked with 2,000 other architects in the 9 offices of the company. He later went on to found another firm, Architecture for Education, in Pasadena.

In the toughest of economic times – spring of 2009 – Christopher answered President Obama’s call to “. . . transform our schools . . . to meet the demands of a new age.” He organized and hosted Architecture for Education’s dreamTeam Education Symposium, bringing together leaders in every facet of education planning, funding, advocacy, facilities development, and learning practices. 

More than 50 futurists, planners, educators, architects, and advocates came together in Pasadena for nearly 3 non-stop days of interaction and discussion concerning learning and the many possibilities for tomorrow’s learning environments. 

From this meeting, the dreamTeam was officially formed, through which members consult with educators around the country and the world, bringing the best in learning environments and pedagogy to all students. 

A frequent conference speaker, as well as a former university instructor, Christopher continues to revolutionize the design of learning environments, broadening their identities as community hubs and centers for student opportunity and achievement.

Notable recent projects for Christopher and Architecture for Education include work in Sacramento and Oxnard. Rancho del Paso K-12 Campus in the Greater Sacramento area was the first school built by Gateway Community Charters. The facility brings together K-12 students from 3 different campuses and distinct cultures. 

The design approach: each existing school maintains its identity on the new campus, coming together to share communal spaces and courtyards. A campus that emphasizes hands-on curriculum, the learning environment evidence theme-based work centers that each classroom cluster surrounds.

In Oxnard, a "riverside" project currently in design development – Riverpark West K-8 STEAM School – will expand on the metaphor of a river’s meander to emphasize STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) education. This K-8 campus will be a groundbreaking facility devoted to project-based learning. 

Working closely with a visionary superintendent, an elder from the Chumash Tribe, and many community/staff members, Christopher developed an integrated program that draws on local tradition and art forms, and the abundant agriculture. 

The campus buildings are formed around a central "waterway"; the learning spaces and STEAM centers follow a pathway based on students’ developmental ages, evolving and changing. Workshops safely house long-term projects, encouraging tinkering and lingering. 

The nearby Santa Clara River provides learning opportunities in outdoor lab stations, lightly constructed to respect environmental concerns. Workshops are connected directly to the classroom environment.

The 2017 Jury of Fellows from the American Institute of Architects included:

Mary Katherine (Mary Kay) Lanzillotta, FAIA, (Chair), Hartman Cox Architects; Peter Bardwell, FAIA, Bardwell & Assoc.; Mary Patton Cox, FAIA, Virginia Commonwealth University; Steve Crane, FAIA, VCBO; Marleen Kay Davis, FAIA, University of Tennessee; David Messersmith, FAIA, University of Texas, Arlington; and Karen V. Nichols, FAIA, Michael Graves Architecture & Design.
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Consisting of a unique collaboration between Kellogg’s, Journee’s Anthony Rudolf (formerly of Thomas Keller) and James Beard award-winning chef Christina Tosi, Chipman Design Architecture was challenged to design and elevate the comforting experience of enjoying your favorite cereal amidst the energy of Times Square.

Image Copyright © Chipman Design
The centerpiece of the restaurant is that delight the customer experiences when receiving their food order through the Cubby Wall. Inspired by the automats of the 1950’s, Chipman Design designed an experience that was also reminiscent of opening your kitchen cabinet to grab the ubiquitous box of cereal. Working directly with the millwork company, Chipman developed the configuration for the Cubbies as well as operations for both front-of-house and back-of-house.

Image Copyright © Chipman Design
While being a relatively small and narrow space, the Design Team did not want the restaurant to feel cramped and claustrophobic, but light and airy. With a concept based on a 1950’s retro diner with a modern twist, mid-century modern furniture was chosen and specified in addition to the use of white painted brick and clean-lined, red light fixtures to tie the space back to the Kellogg’s brand.

Image Copyright © Chipman Design
As a new dining concept, Chipman Design wanted to provide clear wayfinding from the restaurant entrance through the queue to the service counter and cubby wall without strictly using signage. Utilizing a wood wall with open portals to divide the queue and dining area, guests are clearly directed to the service counter to order by a porcelain tile mimicking woodgrain, both beautiful and durable. Complementing the woodgrain throughout the space is a retro black and white mosaic hexagonal tile, equal parts nostalgia and present day.

Image Copyright © Chipman Design
Providing full architectural and interior design services, Chipman Design collaborated with the client from the firm’s Chicago and New York offices. Implementing full due diligence services including code and lease review as well as performing a site survey of the proposed space, the Chipman Design Team designed the concept for the restaurant while utilizing the firm’s Visualization Studio to create in-house, photoreal 3D renderings to communicate the design intent to the client. Chipman then further developed the design, completing the Construction Documents and performing full Construction Administration services. 

From the Architect
‘Kellogg’s NYC was a unique project – a chance to develop a concept that was both nostalgic and forward-thinking. The most important element to establish in the restaurant were the ‘cubbies.’ The client wanted it to feel like you were getting your breakfast from your own kitchen cabinet. The space has a vintage soda shop/automat (the famed Horn and Hardart) feel accomplished by utilizing the black and white mosaic tile on the floor as well as painting the brick walls a matte white. Modern touches included the red lacquer finishes for the cubbies as well as the updated shape of the mid-century-inspired walnut chairs and marble tabletops.’

‘As this was a new concept for the Kellogg’s brand, we wanted the ordering process to be clear to the customer. Wood flooring was used as a wayfinding device – leading the customer to the ordering counter and then to pick up their food in the cubbies. We also used an open, storefront divider along the queue line to create separation between ordering and dining, but still, keep it feeling open as New York real estate is at a prime and the restaurant is only 1,400 square feet.’

Herschler worked hand-in-hand from Chipman’s Chicago headquarters with the firm’s New York office, communicating daily with Project Manager Tunde Soyebo and Principal Gary Metzger to develop the concept with the client and translate the design intent into Architectural drawings.

The outcome: an extraordinary experience that feels like coming home.

For background information about Chipman Design Architecture visit:

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Encouraging the innovative idea of translating an educational program directly into the built learning environment, an award-winning American architect shared his views with an international audience in China. 

Gaylaird Christopher, principal architect and president of Architecture for Education Incorporated, Pasadena, California, participated as a guest speaker at The 2nd International Symposium on New and Renovation Design of Contemporary K-12 Education Buildings, held last month. 

The prestigious conference, held in Hangzhou of Zhejiang Province, China, was themed "Creating for 21th Century Learning Space." The symposium was sponsored by the Beijing Union Friendship Exchange Center for Architecture. The Committee of Educational Building Experts, China Ministry of Education, also supported the event. 

A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Christopher presented the philosophy behind the body of his work: Inspiring students to excel and become lifelong learners. Boasting an extensive background in the field of educational facilities design, the speaker addressed 250 attendees, including educational facilities managers, architects, developers, and investors from the various provinces in China. 

He said, "My goal throughout the 40 years of my career has been to improve pedagogy through the translation of educational program directly into the built learning environment. Every design element, plan, building system, and architectural detail provides a teaching moment for students, as the architecture that surrounds them evidences a 3-dimensional textbook."

Gaylaird Christopher
Voicing his belief that a child learns in multiple ways, Christopher stressed the importance of optimizing that experience in a carefully conceived, totally supportive learning environment. 

He shared details of his own revolutionary Futures Planning Process that includes students, educators, and community members, along with institutional and business leaders, in the planning and design process. 

"It is unique to my design approach," Christopher explained. "Every Futures participant contributes ideas and challenges – their involvement is essential and encouraged. Futures attendees explore how local resources can best be utilized, foundational to expanding the learning options for their students and community." 

He said the process asks for education-based contributions from everyone – students reach out in service to their community and the educational pathways it opens, as the community enriches learning for its students, in and out of the classroom. 

Christopher told his symposium audience that the idea blossomed for him from his experiences as a university student. 

"I became interested in the field of education and sought to work with some of the preeminent school architects in the country," he said. "I believed that architecture could do so much more in support of learning. Renewed funding sources created opportunities to build new schools; this was a chance for me to institute a strong community engagement process." 

He explained that diversity of input and a community-based focus are signature elements of his Futures Planning Process; the approach has made available unique resources to the students who attend the schools designed through this approach. 

The architect said the process challenges clients to look beyond the familiar and ask, “How can this new idea / technology apply to our schools and to our community?” Students, educators, businesses/organizations, and community are involved in a partnership, he added, in which everyone recognizes the benefits that will accrue for students and the greater community. 

Offering a detailed color slide presentation of graphics and photographs, the speaker shared some of the success stories achieved through employing this type of design strategy. 

"Our unique planning efforts forged strong relationships with and between K-12 educators, universities, community colleges, the YMCA/YWCA, fire stations, medical centers, and businesses throughout the country," he explained. 

"Our participatory planning process pioneered high school students’ attendance in college classes; university education students’ direct on-campus involvement in teaching elementary students; the first Starbucks operated by students on a high school campus; community fitness centers; extended hours child development centers; student internships with businesses, organizations, and institutions throughout their communities." 

Stressing the importance of expanding the scope of schools, the conference speaker outlined his view of the relationship between the community and the learning environment. 

"Standing on the shoulders of the many distinguished mentors and trailblazers who came before me," he said, "I continue to embrace the challenge of designing unique, signature learning environments for our clients – broadening schools’ identities to include community hubs and gathering places that support the highest levels of academic achievement." 

While attending the conference in China, Christopher said he was able to forge a working relationship with a local architectural firm. He added that his Pasadena firm and the group of Chinese architects are beginning plans for several future public works projects within their country. 

Organizers said the goal of the conference was to enhance the exchange of experiences between professionals from many countries in educational facilities construction and to elevate the design level of schools in China. 

In addition to Christopher, one of America's foremost educational architects, other speakers at the international presentation represented the countries of Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, and Japan. 

Speakers at the conference included successful architects and professionals in the field of K-12 educational architecture. Each presenter showcased new construction or renovation projects completed by his/her firm in detail -- from concept design to completion of projects for kindergarten, primary school, middle school and high school.
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The house splits the outdoor space in two and stretches between fences that face each other. Double entrance, one of which leads to a garage, cuts through the side fence and is separated by a wall keeping a parking spot out of sight. 

Due to a small budget of the project, shapes of the building are minimalistic and design is focused on efficient dispersal of the rooms and keeping the entire building nourished with a natural light throughout the day. 

The white render is contrasted with the greenness of nature surrounding the house, as if the building is a canvas and the first image to greet you when entering the space is a tree, peeking out from the gaps of the wall in front of it.

Architect: STIPFOLD 
Project Leader: Beka Pkhakadze 
Copywriter: Mika Motskobili 
Location: Tbilisi / Georgia 
Type: Residential / House 
Area: 350m²
Project Commenced: 2017 
Status: In Progress

Front Elevation - Rendered Graphic
Rear Elevation - Rendered Graphic
Front Elevation - Rendered Graphic

North Elevation
East Elevation

South Elevation

West Elevation

For more details head over to the STIPFOLD website

You can also find out more about STIPFOLD on their Facebook and Twitter profiles
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COLUMBIA, South Carolina – December 19, 2016 – Stevens & Wilkinson, a full-service architecture, engineering and interior design firm based in Atlanta and Columbia, S.C., recently completed site planning, architectural, and engineering design for Clemson University’s new Core Campus Housing and Dining precinct improvements. Completion of the facilities marked the first step in Clemson University’s redevelopment of its core campus, as envisioned in the university’s 2002 masterplan. The Core Campus’s new construction is a progressive approach to residential housing, dining venues and academic space that has created an interactive, living-learning community.

Photo credit: Flashnick Visuals, LLC.
Comprised of nearly 286,000 square feet, with an estimated construction cost of $83,000,000, this project will help meet the growing demands for contemporary housing and dining options. The facility supports Clemson University’s goal of retaining more sophomore students on campus. As one of the nation’s top-20 public universities, the new precinct will also enable the demolition and redevelopment of the school’s Harcombe Dining Hall and Student Union in subsequent phases. 

Located on the site of the former Johnstone Residence Hall, the new Core Campus complex was conceptualized as an integrated mega-structure that serves to anchor the precinct on campus. The complex now provides 700 student beds and 1,200 seats of dining and is the new home to the Calhoun Honors College and associated academic spaces. 

“Beyond square footage and new construction, the project aspires to much more, including the design and development of quality campus life for students and new forms of housing that support the university’s desire for a multi-purpose, mixed-use center of living and learning,” said Ashby Gressette, AIA and president of Stevens & Wilkinson, South Carolina. 

Primary goals for the project included capturing the best of the “Clemson experience”; advanced coordination of future projects outlined in the Campus Masterplan; creating a facility to enable recruitment and retention of students and achieving LEED Silver Certification. The latter is currently pending final review with the United States Green Building Council. 

The new dining facilities offer a wide array of choices across 300 seats of retail dining and 900 seats of residential dining in a modern capacity. Retail venues with extended hours; a delicatessen and grill; national coffee and chicken sandwich chains; and a convenience store provide flexible options. 

“The character of the new, high-end facility offers a variety of seating areas separated by custom millwork-style seating and partition screens,” says Gressette. “Each retail dining venue has its own unique character and finishes that have been tied into the overall aesthetic of the facility.” 

Photo credit: Flashnick Visuals, LLC.

Photo credit: Flashnick Visuals, LLC.
The dining complex has three levels, including a lower service level, main dining level, and a relaxed dining mezzanine, all of which are connected by a centrally located main circulation core. 

The Stevens & Wilkinson project team designed the new housing spaces to provide numerous residential unit types and community options for students, furthering the university’s plan for student growth and on-campus retention. 

At the north end of the site, two seven-story residence halls of 244 and 178 beds comprise the Calhoun Honors College, with academic assembly and administrative space on the first floor arranged around a raised courtyard. Common lounges connected by open stairs enhance the idea of community in close proximity to student accommodations of double and single semi-suites with semi-private baths. To the south, a 265-bed residence hall provides double occupancy rooms with common private baths. 

This housing design aids the college in its student recruitment for a National Scholars Program and the continued retention of students living on campus following their first year.

Newly implemented site planning and landscape architecture created flexible and high-quality, open spaces for easy connectivity to and from central campus buildings. This began by creating the popular Clemson Walk pedestrian spine, which now acts as a key unifying space for the entire precinct. 

“The 20-foot-wide walk features integrally colored concrete paving and is framed by an allée of trees and LED lighting elements,” says Gressette. “Pairs of bench elements are arranged along the walk, and the new housing, dining, and honors college are accessed from this path.” 

To the west, Clemson Walk opens into a series of courtyards, providing access to the buildings. The courtyards provide lawn space, deciduous canopies of trees, and areas of concrete paver units for activities. These spaces were also created for public art selected via a national competition. 

Due to previous development, the site was formerly crossed by most major campus utility services, including steam, chilled water, power, telecommunications, storm and sanitary sewers, which were strategically relocated by the team to make way for the project.


About Stevens & Wilkinson: Founded in 1919, Stevens & Wilkinson is a full-service architecture, engineering and interior design firm committed to providing clients with “Smart Design Solutions.” The firm’s combined design capabilities equate to projects executed with creative, innovative and holistic design solutions. To learn more: www.stevens-wilkinson.com.

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© 2016 Brian Gassel Photography
There is a growing surge of activity focused on developing new learning environments in response to demands for increased interaction, collaboration, connectivity, engagement, and community. This movement is spearheaded by the need to accommodate the variety of identified ways in which students learn. Innovative school facility design is the key integrator of multi modal learning concepts, academic customization and technology synthesis for existing and new K-12 schools.

Non-traditional, Immersive Learning Environments, or “Learningscapes,” are generally designed around five distinct types of learning activities, namely: Individual study, collaborative small group, breakout lecture,community classroom, and exploratory workshop spaces.

Each of these has specific needs in terms of space, configurations, technologies, finishes, furniture, acoustics, and lighting. For example, individual study areas define intimate spaces designed for individual investigation, critical thinking and assessment. Collaborative small group areas integrate flexible team spaces for project-based learning and collaboration.

Workshop areas accommodate hands-on exploration and testing, similar to a science lab. Breakout lecture areas include gathering spaces intended for short discourses and distant learning. Community classroom areas are shared spaces planned for social learning and co-planning in groups. The relationship and configuration of these spaces, in conjunction with a central teaching-team planning area, are the design components used to develop such environments.

Mutual Education and Learning

“Immersive Learning Environments, also known as active learning, personalized learning or project-based learning, promote diverse teaching strategies aimed at changing the idea of one teacher in one room in favor of a more migratory educational experience,” explains Kirk Marchisen, principal and vice president of Stevens & Wilkinson, Georgia. “The variety of space typologies permits a team of teachers to jointly devise the curriculum and workflow into “neighborhoods” of learning to improve teacher-to-student and student-to-student interaction and educational outcomes.”

Learning neighborhoods are better for both students and teachers. Rather than transitioning from one fixed classroom to another, or remaining with the same teacher all day, students may be given the choice to work either individually, or study collaboratively in groups of varying sizes and learning abilities.

This expanded learning format requires more interaction and cooperation among the teaching team to develop plans that are unified yet diverse in their offerings. Professional development focused on activity coordination and the utilization of these varied areas within the neighborhood is imperative to successfully realize the full potential of an Immersive Learning Environment.

Students educated in an Immersive Learning Environment have the opportunity to become more engaged in the learning process within a creative atmosphere that blends interaction, collaboration, modernized curriculum, and the enhanced integration of technology. The setting provides activity-based instruction and student-led participation, which significantly improve attention and promote retention and understanding of new concepts.

“Today, there are many ways to gather and test knowledge,” says Marchisen. “This evolution of educational space design is a value-added proposition to accommodate the innumerable ways in which students learn, understand, recall, and apply information.”

© 2016 Brian Gassel Photography
The Role of Architecture and Design

From a design perspective, there is not a prescribed formula that dictates the planning of these spaces. Each design is oriented to promote intercommunication between the variety of spaces and activities; to take advantage of available natural light and site views; and to support the culture of the school, district or community.

The main goal of Immersive Learning facility design is to provide a spatial response to the multifaceted learning needs and abilities of students as well as the demand for improved educational results. Design solutions are developed to facilitate team-based interdisciplinary curriculum and stimulate confidence in communication, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and technology. Successful design will also support the development of a team approach to instruction and coordination between the teachers.

“When we design Immersive Learning Environments, we envision a student easily transitioning from class to lab, or being part of a small group in a more specialized space to watch a video or perform tasks without disturbing the rest of the class,” says Marchisen. “The design is a critical component to the evolution of each student’s learning process.”

For several years, Marchisen and his colleagues at Stevens & Wilkinson, a full-service architecture, engineering and interior design firm with offices in Columbia, S.C. and Atlanta, have worked closely with various county leadership committees and school administrations to implement a series of architectural prototypes of the Immersive Learning Environment concept.

In 2012, leaders of the Fulton County School system in Atlanta hosted a two-day charrette to discuss and address the challenges of 21st century transformative education. Stevens & Wilkinson, in collaboration with Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, worked closely with Fulton County to develop a range of ideas to tackle the challenges of the changing educational landscape.

The outcome of the charrette led to transformational changes for Fulton County and its approach to facility design with the introduction of Immersive Learning strategies. The district felt a strong responsibility to develop these concepts in their schools and be an example for the State of Georgia as a leader in promoting nontraditional learning environments.

Results: Cases in Point

The Ronald E. McNair Middle School, located in Fulton County Georgia, was Fulton County Schools’ first example of a reimagined facility based on the principles of Immersive Learningspaces.

Based on a prototype originally designed by Stevens & Wilkinson in 1998, the school formerly had three separate wings for sixth, seventh and eighth grade core instruction. Each grade had self-contained classrooms and labs flanking a traditional circulation corridor.

By introducing Immersive Learning design and further developing ideas originally presented in the 2012 charrette, Stevens & Wilkinson and Immersive Learning design consultant Little Diversified transformed the conventional wing design into the concept of “neighborhoods.”

Individual classrooms and science labs in each wing were reconfigured into three distinct yet interconnected neighborhoods, also known as learning communities. “The neighborhood concept is successful because there is a social aspect to it,” Marchisen says. “A neighborhood has a more open feel without all ofthe doors of more conventional classroom design, but is totally different from the open plan designs popular in the 1970s.”

The redesign allows teachers to interact with more than one class at a time, evoking a greater sense of community and communication between learning areas. Students can remain in their neighborhoods for the better part of a school day, freely circulating between productive spaces designed for class, labs and teamwork.

The neighborhood includes four connected classroom areas and a workshop / lab, along with a series of adjoining spaces for individual study, small group study, and a tiered lecture space. In addition, a centrally located teacher planning area is within the neighborhood.

The outcome of this effective Immersive Learning design has proven so positive for McNair Middle School, the same design principles were developed for a series of middle school additions in a separate part of the county.

Bright colors, natural light and attention to acoustics and indoor air quality contribute to Immersive Learning Environment schools, with the goal of serving as places of joy and well-being for teachers and students.Students are happier being able to work in group settings or self-sufficiently as an alternative to former confines.

As observed by Luqman Abdur-Raman, principal at McNair Middle School, “Students benefit from understanding that in real-world problem solving, it is not only about lecture or group work; it is also about coming together to present and share ideas.”

In South Carolina, Richland School District Two’s new, LEED-accredited Lake Carolina Upper Elementary School includes flexible learning spaces that coexist with new Immersive Learning Environments. These spaces are inclusive of traditional classrooms with multiple, smaller breakout spaces that open to large commons areas used for flexible team teaching, project-based learning and collaboration.

“The new school continues to receive rave reviews from the students, faculty and, most notably, the parents,” says Martha Jones, director of strategic partnerships for Richland School District Two. “Everyone is enjoying the new campus model, the state-of-the-art design and the innovative layout of the classrooms.”

The classrooms and breakout spaces are defined by large glass doors that provide physical and visual connectivity to the larger commons area which, by design, encourages team teaching and relationships or associations between the different groups. In turn, defined teacher work areas are integrated within the neighborhood cluster of learning spaces to enhance supervision, utility and teacher support.

According to Marchisen, the supervisory element is also part of the design team’s architectural considerations. “Teachers should be able to position themselves in the neighborhood and effortlessly see through an interior windowpane or open doorway to adjacent learning areas. In essence, the design yields a good amount of visual connection for teachers and students alike.”

Tim Williams, AIA, associate vice president, senior architect with Stevens & Wilkinson, S.C., stated the design team met with Richland School District Two’s leadership to help them develop goals and objectives, in order to create a mission statement for a design concept that became known as the “Treehouse for Learning.”

This unique concept, similar to the Immersive Learning model, encompassed multiple design challenges, supportive of the learning environment, such as how to best approach the school; how to instill a sense of exploration; and how to stimulate imagination and encourage collaboration. The Stevens & Wilkinson, S.C. project team helped revise the Richland School District Two’s detailed program. The team was ultimately invited to design a new pre-K through 5th-grade elementary school reflective of the district’s revised philosophy for flexible and multifaceted instructional space.

Former board chair of Richland School District Two’s Board of Trustees, Calvin “Chip” Jackson believes the building will serve the school and district well for decades to come. “Everyone enjoys the school’s collaborative work spaces and natural lighting. It is handsome, colorful and energy-efficient, all aspects the community are proud of,” he says.

Emergence of Immersive Learning Environments

While the narrative of fewer walls and greater visual connectivity can often give rise to mistaken perceptions of noise and student control, the benefits become obvious when the spaces are active with students, and teachers can fully utilize the range of space options. Once these concepts are embraced and implemented, everyone involved - teachers, students and staff- easily realizes the positive impacts and potential of the new designs that address the wide variety of teaching and learning opportunities.

To accelerate the transition to Immersive Learning environments, school authorities have a leading role to perform. In both Georgia and South Carolina, school districts are considering ways to incrementally add new learning environments to existing conventionally designed schools and new school buildings. In fact, the move to embrace the concept is beginning to take shape throughout the region and country.

“As designers, we believe in the Immersive Learning concept. As school leadership boards and administrators explore the possibilities and seethe benefits, we would like to see the concept evolve and become even more successful,” agree both Marchisen and Williams.

Architectural and interior design are integral parts of the development of Immersive Learning Environments. Through the design of more varied neighborhood-oriented spaces, learning happens in a community context. Visual transparency contributes to greater connectivity between groups of teachers and students. Together, these are transforming the way our next generation of leaders are being educated for a promising future.
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