At the start of the project ask: what are the key values of the institution, and how can the building design support them?
It is useful and illuminating to document the goals and aspirations for the project with the key planning committee. If the goals are also ranked by this group it gives everyone a clear understanding of the project’s objectives and their importance to the group. The ranked goals are extremely helpful to use as a touchstone during the process when important or difficult decisions need to be made.
Often institutional interests, such as flexibility, adaptability and efficiency, are in direct conflict with faculty interests like customization and demand for space. Determine early who makes and delivers the final decisions on your project.
Plan for a building that will live beyond the current individuals. Think about flexible and adaptable modules and ask yourself: how will this space be adapted to the needs of future users?
The best undergrad buildings have a clear diagram that foregrounds a sense of place, and excitement for science, teaching and learning. Consider the orienting and unifying opportunities in the project as you plan.
Make sure the building layout is generous during planning. Everything will tighten up as the design moves forward.
Think about how to integrate storage, for coats, backpacks, laptops, into the DNA of a project so it doesn’t have to be added in at the end.
Think about the public areas of the building as a series of complimentary spaces which range in size and exposure. Large gathering spaces may be complimented by smaller more intimate spaces to support a range of serendipitous interactions: faculty to student; student to student; and faculty to faculty.
Many of the building occupants will be living with our design for many years – and this is their one chance to get it right – so the stakes are very high for them. The users will care deeply about the design, and ultimately this is what makes this process so interesting and rewarding!