Joseph G. Tattoni
The most unexpected challenge in designing the Campus Commons at the State University of New York was the importance that social learning would play in the development and configuration…
What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?
The most unexpected challenge in designing the Campus Commons at the State University of New York was the importance that social learning would play in the development and configuration of the project. We needed to create spaces within the Commons that were lively and visible; yet focused and controlled for group work and study. This was a challenge in a building type that is primarily and historically a place for socializing and gathering; not necessarily for productive working. However, recent pedagogy in learning relies heavily on team based projects and large social gathering places, such as student centers and commons, are becoming natural places for gathering, working and learning. We met the challenge at the Campus Commons project by creating an upper level mezzanine that was visibly and physically a part of the larger commons, but was also secluded and more private for group and team work.
Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?
The role of the architect has historically been a very public and social role by synthesizing the collective needs of institutions and peoples in to an expression that is meaningful to everyone at some level. Our role on the Campus Commons project expanded because of the active involvement of students who wanted their voice heard. This meant creating a sustainable facility that transformed the appearance of their beloved campus at the front door to the University. We explored with the students meaningful metaphors for that expression and collectively decided that the regional landscape of the Catskill Mountains of the Hudson River valley, where the University if located, provided the appropriate inspiration for a transformative architectural expression.
How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?
The Campus Commons project is possible today in two ways that might not have been possible before:
- Technologically we were able to make a column-less space span over an existing courtyard through the creation of a structural stress skin enclosure. The enclosure is both structure and wall – illustrating an economy of systems.
- Sociologically, the Commons is a place for physical networking. All day long students now rely heavily on virtual networking through email, texting, tweeting, etc. the Commons is a physical environment that permits the most needed physical interaction to supplement and nurture the virtual environment.
In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?
Trends in academic curriculum rely on group and project team work for learning and teaching. Learning is shifting its priority from a solely single scholarship model to a collaborative group model, thus informing spaces that are more open and flexible.