WHITNEY COMMONS

Onondaga Community College

Location:  Syracuse, NY

Completed:  August 2015

Program:  Collaborative Classrooms

Construction Type:  Rennovation

Awards:  2015 AIACNY Architecture Award of Merit

Built in the late 1990’s, the Whitney Applied Technology Building is home to various academic departments and offices including the campus bookstore, Office of the President, and the Whitney Atrium.  To aid in the development of students, the College engaged the Design Team to create a state-of-the-art hub that allows the faculty and business community to engage with students and promote collaboration.  From this request, the Whitney Commons was created.

Whitney Commons is a multi-use collaboration area that utilizes technology and flexibility to promote 21st century learning, all while acting as a “welcome center” for the campus.  The space facilitates teaching, technology, and teamwork. Faculty engages with students in a unique learning environment that is not available anywhere else on campus.  Originally a singled large assembly “lecture” style classroom, Whitney Commons encompasses this area, as well as the corridor and offices that are adjacent to the atrium.  This allowed the Design Team to open up the shared wall and showcase this classroom with a large projected window to the students passing by in the atrium below.  A vertical electronic ticker display captures the eye of the students as they enter the buildings main area and draws their attention upwards toward Whitney Commons.

The arrangement of the three (3) collaboration clusters allows multiple functions to occur simultaneously. Students can learn how to acclimate to “real life” work environments that include open collaboration and use of current technology.  The use of furniture, finishes and the strategically placed sliding  “walls” make the space feel intimate without losing the sense of openness.  Curved lighting, circular gypsum clouds and radial perforated metal ceilings inspired by the concentric signal pattern of a wireless hotspot highlight the clusters, while a partially open grid ceiling system ties the whole space together.  Minimal accent wall colors and a dark colored carpet allow the feature walls to be prominent in the space.  The feature wall displays an abstract “T” in reference to the three themes (teaching, technology and teamwork), starts in the corridor and wraps completely around an existing chase.  On the corridor side you will find the “logo” of the Whitney Commons that was created by the Design Team.  In addition, a custom designed backlit world map, serves a focal point for the largest collaboration cluster.

The state-of-the-art technology, innovative use of materials, flexible furniture and adaptable spatial arrangements allow the students and staff to participate in large full class discussion or smaller group/break-out tasks; fulfilling the colleges goal to create a space that will prepare students for working in a collaborative and technological future.