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Built Environment and Infrastructure group reimagines West Classroom

The Advisory Council envisions a safer, more accessible and more functional space that reflects University values.

By Lindsey Coulter

January 16, 2020

BOT members on tour of West Classroom Building.Members of the President’s Advisory Council on Built Environment and Infrastructure — led by Amy Kern, assistant professor, Industrial Design — presented progress and ideas to the President’s Cabinet on Dec. 3. President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., tasked the council with reimagining Metropolitan State University of Denver spaces to better reflect our core values and evolving academic priorities — and with determining priority and high-ROI projects.

“We each came to the council with a respect for how spatial design can impact education and community,” Kern said. “Having spaces that communicate MSU Denver’s message, encourage pride and inclusiveness, and stimulate the kind of active learning that our students seem to benefit from are always the focus of our recommendations.”

After auditing buildings across both campuses, the group elected to focus on the West Classroom Building. MSU Denver utilizes most of the West Classroom building, and its location, function and current aesthetic made it the perfect case study.

Now, members are collaborating with campus stakeholders and Access Center staff as well as external partners to uncover problems in the building’s current design, discover opportunities for improvement and learn more about stakeholders’ spatial needs, behaviors and preferences. These conversations helped council members develop four recommendation areas:

  • Inclusive wellness and safety concepts
    • Establish and communicate channels for reporting safety and usability concerns.
    • Completely redesign West Classroom bathrooms for increased safety and inclusivity.
    • Design charging stations/work nooks along hallways.
    • Go beyond ADA compliance to truly communicate that all space users matter.
    • Address dead-end hallways and poor signage visibility.
  • Surfacing concepts
    • Introduce sound-dampening, textural, light-reflecting and light-emitting ceilings.
    • Introduce easy-to-clean, sound-dampening and light-reflecting floors.
    • Install multilingual, accessible, dimensional, inspirational and clear signage.
    • Make hallways more dimensional with art.
  • Furniture concepts
    • Introduce configurable, active and sit/stand workspaces as well as compact and mobile seating.
    • Improve Wi-Fi and add smart boards, information monitors and outlets.
    • Create impromptu breakout areas.
  • Architectural renovation concepts
    • Increase natural light with skylights, larger windows and glass doors.
    • Purify air, increase productivity and improve temperature and noise control through plant life and living walls.
    • Develop a campus walking trail that links to improved/redesigned entryways and a revitalized “under the bridge” area.
    • Add a roof deck and community garden for fresh-air learning and events.
    • Increase classroom sizes through construction or dividers, and increase visibility in and through learning spaces.
    • Build a kitchenette to promote better nutrition options.

MSU Denver Industrial Design students were also valuable partners in the process. Kern challenged the students to reimagine West Classroom entryways and vending-machine rooms, with impressive results. The student teams introduced innovative furnishings, rich color palettes, natural textures and building materials, balconies, communal and semiprivate student and rest spaces, and more.

“It was surprising how aligned and sensitive the students’ proposed designs were; I made sure not to influence their direction, so they used their own firsthand experiences to spark ideas for their innovative visions,” Kern said. “Our council believes that students are the stakeholders that have the most to gain from a redesign, and we will continue to co-create with them, as well as faculty, staff and facility experts, as we move forward.”

Next, the council will invite campus stakeholders to participate in interactive workshops and walkthroughs to identify even more opportunities for improvement.

To learn more, view the council’s presentation online.

Topics: Advisory Council, Excellence, President’s Cabinet, West Classroom

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