Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) received the largest donation to date and since the college was in need of a special space to house the new scholars program decided to allocate the funds accordingly to showcase their best and brightest. RF+PA was proud to collaborate with Tri-C on designing an area for one of the first scholar programs within a community college in the country. The Mandel Foundation donated funds to the College to create an exclusive space for the program which will define a whole new learning philosophy within Tri-C. The Center provides a distinctive academic experience cultivating the study of humanities through innovative teaching, collaborative/group learning, seminars/lectures, and civic engagement opportunities designed to expand critical thinking and develop leadership skills. Tri-C states that “The mission of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center is to provide a unique environment for meeting the intellectual and academic needs of Mandel Scholars in a holistic manner and to broaden engagement in humanities scholarship.” Therefore the main goal of the project was to create a flexible area promoting collaboration between faculty and students. Another desired result was to create transparency in order to feature this very special program and to aid in recruitment and retention for the College. In addition the center will be utilized to bring in community leaders, this transparency aids in showcasing Tri-C’s talent. This Project was a renovation/repurposing of approximately 20,000 square feet on the second floor of the Eastern Liberal Arts building now known as the Jack, Joseph & Mort Mandel Humanities Resource Center. Besides these interior renovations, a total of three exterior illuminated wall-mounted signs were designed to rename the building. The Humanities Resource Center consists of creation/ideation spaces, conference rooms, classrooms, seminar rooms and touch down spaces. The program launched with 100 scholars and will continue to increase over the years and is predicted to rise to approximately 400 students per year. In order to accommodate this growth, we had to integrate adaptable technology and create flexibility. The classrooms feature the highest technologically advanced spaces to date on Tri-C’s campus. There are monitors on the walls, projectors and smart boards are all top of the line and also tech-savvy. The configurations of semi-mobile furniture and a variety of seating options can be rearranged to accommodate a plethora of teaching styles, programs and functions. Our design team had extensive meetings with the faculty and staff to gain their input on classroom space, their teaching styles and tools required in order to design the best possible solution to meet their needs. The spaces promote and enhance collaboration, floor outlets are able to be rearranged for different configurations. The space also has flexible wipe boards available to both students and teachers. Technology is also integrated through the furniture with a raised floor. A unique piece of furniture is the power cubes which are tables that have integrated plugs for device charging throughout with a dry erase surface to promote group brainstorming. Chairs are on wheels so that the spaces are dynamic and configurable in a variety of formats. All fabrics were chosen based on the intended use and selected since they are easy to clean and maintain. The ceiling was designed to provide thermal distribution and comfort without direct exposure, while also creating visual interest. Another feature which might increase exposure of the space is an identifiable ring on the ceiling that can further attract the eyes of visitors and users to the Center. The project’s sustainable features include the replacement of outdated mechanical equipment with energy efficient systems, LED lighting throughout the space, and construction waste was diverted from landfills. Since this Scholars Academy is a new program and a new concept, it was imperative to have Campus President Dr. Thompson on board, and as an active participant throughout the project, as he was fundamental in creating the objectives of the program. In order to have the Center open for Spring 2016 classes, we had to keep a very aggressive schedule while also minimizing disruption to neighboring classrooms. The level of commitment from Tri-C was apparent and speaks to the importance of the program. More importantly, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center was completed under budget with a savings of $44,000 that can now be put towards other Capital projects. RF+PA is proud to help create such a wonderful space for Cuyahoga Community College to which they have stated, “The Scholars Academy provides an innovative environment for developing highly informed, well-rounded students who are prepared to transition directly into four-year institutions and who have the knowledge and wisdom to become civically and ethically responsible citizens and future leaders.” This project truly exemplifies design excellence as the space is inspiring, non-traditional to the campus, and designed for the brightest students to collaborate, further educating the leaders of tomorrow.
RF+PA responded to a design competition which encouraged re-thinking the way in which we educate our youth. School design hasn’t been altered much over the years and therefore reflects the thinking and solutions of a different era. Most of our public high schools were built in an industrial economy when we were preparing our workforce for different types of professions. The workforce today is divergent from the past and the design must be agile and flexible to accommodate the skills of today while also being dynamic for our rapidly changing future. We are approaching education differently through architectural design solutions which will creatively further the functionality of our schools and better support future generations. Our firm is inspired as we enjoy a challenge and we feel that our approach will truly transform education, the way in which the youth think and thus positively affect our future.