Chairs and couches might not be the first things that spring to mind when you think of academic design. However, since campus life involves lecturing, studying, tutoring sessions, and socializing, designing seating conducive to these activities is crucial, as the architects at Diller, Scofidio + Renfro figured out when they forgot to add seating in their project at Brown University’s Granoff Center for the Creative Arts.
The result of D,S.+R’s oversight is swanky, modular furniture, consisting of a chair, a table/stool, and a sofa. The pieces can be put together for larger groups, or broken down, depending on the users’ needs. They’re built from fiber reinforced plastic to withstand the daily wear-and-tear they’ll experience. By placing them in niches at various levels of the multi-story design, they accommodate the social/academic collaboration that happens daily on each level.
Similarly, Boston design firms,designLAB, Austin Architects, and Leslie Saul & Associates was hired to revamp the Claire T. Carney Library at UMass Dartmouth. The project was somewhat daunting, as the original structure’s design belongs to architecture legend Paul Rudolph. The library’s design team maintained the original modernist look, called “Brutalism“, while adding elements of their own. They used an approach similar to D,S + Rs academic design by incorporating brightly colored group seating areas, as well as streamlined durable benches, designed to facilitate group dialogues or individual study sessions.
As experienced academic designers, we believe the smartest academic design is one that not only stands the test of time, but can be modified later as the needs of an institution evolve.