Rethinking Outdoor Academic Spaces

CoorsTek Center for Applied Science and Engineering © Nic Lehoux

In the spirit of our recent Year of Gathering webinar on Extending the Life of Outdoor Campus Spaces, we decided to take a tour through some of our outdoor academic spaces with fresh eyes. With some colleges returning to campus, and some meeting remotely, our attention has changed to finding new opportunities to use the lawns, courtyards, patios, and covered walkways we previously designed. How would you imagine these spaces adapting to our current times? Could some of these new uses become permanent installations for future students to enjoy?

Marquez Hall

Colorado School of Mines
Golden, Colorado
87,000 sf

Marquez Hall offers a stunning cantilever roof that provides light for evening or early morning classes. It is a perfect place to centrally meet to pick up course work or host a socially distanced event. The wide, long covered walkway stretching the length of the building provides a protected area to set up temporary outdoor furniture that is sheltered from both the intense Colorado sun and winter snow. An adjacent lawn with hardscaping and seating opportunities creates the perfect place to meet up to review notes with a friend or teacher.

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Photos by Nic Lehoux

CoorsTek Center for Applied Science and Engineering

Colorado School of Mines
Golden, Colorado
95,000 sf

The lawn surrounding the CoorsTek Center for Applied Science and Engineering is vast and spacious, allowing for a range of academic programming. Tiered retaining walls provide casual seating that could be used for lectures, outdoor dining, or smaller group gatherings. A large cantilever roof and covered walkways offer opportunities to hide from the elements.

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Photos by Nic Lehoux and Ron Pollard

Lauder College House

The University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
198,000 sf

The Lauder College at the University of Pennsylvania has vast open spaces with a mix of terrain. With a rolling hill (perfect for a lecture or outdoor film screening) and a large central courtyard, the facility offers flexible options and room to distance. Wide paved paths with permanently installed benches provide greater accessibility across the campus. Covered walkways provide smaller gathering spots protected from the elements.

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Photos by Jeffrey Totaro


Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
36,000 sf

ANSYS Hall offers fixed furniture, amphitheater stairs, proximity to the campus mall with a large grass field, and maker space with a large roll-up door. With the courtyard already designed to be an extension of the workspace, we could easily envision students working al fresco with plenty of space to distance. Lecture style classes could space out on the tiered stairs, and larger groups could use outdoor furniture on the great lawn.

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Photos by Chuck Choi

Designing buildings that inspire connection and wonder in every person who experiences them.