Characteristics of the Ideal Spaces for Science

Drafted by participants in the Project Kaleidoscope Roundtable on the Future, Cranbrook, Michigan. March 21-23, 2003. To view Cranbrook related materials, go here.

First, our thinking at Cranbrook was advanced by considering thoughts from Leadership is an Art, by Max DePree, written when he was president of Herman Miller, that successful spaces are those that:

  • encourage an open community, fortuitous encounters
  • are welcoming to all, kind to the user, human-scaled
  • are subservient to human activity, enabling people to connect with ease
  • meet current needs, keep future options open, and can change with grace
  • contribute to the humanity of its context
  • are open to surprise, comfortable with conflict, forgiving of mistakes in planning
  • are non-precious and nonmonumental
  • enable a community to reach continually toward its potential.

Then, further characteristics were suggested by Roundtable participants as potential descriptors of ideal spaces for science.

Physical Infrastructure

  • The external envelope contributes to the learning that takes place inside as it illustrates responsible ecological impact on the community.
  • The physical structure is itself a laboratory (a 'living text') which monitors and tinkers with itself, with mechanical and other systems exposed, instrumented and changeable, giving students opportunity to collect real-time data
    • The "curriculum" of the building is water, waste, light, electricity, heat, air and vegetation. (For example, water: monitoring use; testing for purity; consider sources, plumbing mechanics, recycling water water, soft vs. hard water)
  • The space supports and accommodates the sophisticated instrumentation that is central to 21st century science and engineering.
  • It should in itself be a beauty to behold while at the same time be a vehicle for beholding beauty.
  • It enhances the overall aesthetics of the campus.

Serving Institutional Mission

  • The space serves as a place for the campus community to connect with each other as they explore the world around them.
  • The design and siting of the facility signals that science is a core discipline in 21st century liberal arts education; it encourages and expands the community of science.
  • The space promotes public interest in science by providing a venue for discussion of scientific and technological issues, and by making science "visible."
  • The seamless integration of research and education is fostered.
  • Prudent decisions have been made about multi-use spaces, systems and sustainability to address budget demands over the long-term.

Serving Students

  • Spaces are designed so that all students, majors and non-majors, feel welcome and comfortable in the spaces.
  • Spaces are designed around research in cognitive learning, students with different learning styles feel welcome and comfortable in the spaces.
  • The spaces nurture both collaborative and individual work, in formal and informal settings.
  • The spaces promote the productive synergy of researchers, graduate and undergraduate students through thoughtful proximity.
  • Students have opportunity to be problem-solvers, discoverers, and explorers, and thus are motivated to pursue careers in these fields.
  • Spaces inspire an active imagination and provide a venue to exercise that imagination.

Serving Science

  • The dissolving of boundaries between the disciplines is evident and encouraged, with the capacity to adapt and reconfigure as new projects and programs evolve.
  • There are matrices of public and private spaces for teaching/learning and research, formal and informal learning, serendipitous engagement
  • The nature of "doing of science" is visible, with windows into the laboratories, display shelves with scientific artifacts and art throughout.
  • Space is provided for un-interupted work on research projects by students, students and faculty, faculty.
  • Spaces easily accommodate advances in how science is practiced, how scientists explore new questions, pursue answers to those questions, and communicate with colleagues around the globe.
  • Tools for exploring, modeling, simulating and using data for research are readily accessible.
  • The facility is adaptable and agile, ready to accommodate new pedagogies and new directions in scientific, technological and engineering communities.

Serving the Curriculum

  • The space allows for the non-disruptive implementation of new technologies and pedagogies.
  • It facilitates the integration of presentation media and network connectivity into all teaching and learning spaces and allows for constant evolution in how these technologies are used.
  • Different styles of teaching and learning are easily accommodated.
  • The space helps students connect what they are learning in classroom and lab to the world beyond the campus, engaged in real-world problems and possibilities.
  • The space accommodates programs that motivate students to consider careers in STEM fields.