For our Materials Science Building at the University of Connecticut, our client requested a space that could accommodate traditional lecture classes, with students facing a single screen, as well as Active Learning classes where students working semi-independently in small groups. Today, we will walk our readers through the design process, including how we utilized our FabLab to achieve a design that would meet the needs of the client.
We worked closely with the University’s Active Learning Group, conducted our own precedent research and tested multiple layout options to understand the specific goals of each instruction style and the spatial qualities that could best support each educational format. The resulting room design places rows of 6-person tables on tiers for clear sightlines to the front of the room for lectures, while also allowing for small group collaborative work in an Active Learning class.
We knew that the dimensions and shape of the tables in the room would be a critical design element contributing to the success of the space, so we decided to mock up several table shapes at full scale for assessment.
First, we used Rhino to create the linework of the 5 table shapes we wanted to test.
Then, we used the CNC router to cut the shapes from ¾” MDF.
We tested the table shapes both internally and with our client and decided that the “canoe” option was our favorite. The curved shape created an implied center to focus on student collaboration and provided a comfortable working space for six students seated with laptops.
Our next step was to explore the design of the table legs and supports further. We wanted to include as few obstructions below the working surface as possible so students could move around the table and collaborate easily. We also needed to run power and data connections to the table surface and wanted to design a leg detail that would conceal the conduit but not require super-precise installation by the electrician. So, we went back to the Fab Lab for another round of mock-ups.