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Inside Look: Residence Halls

Expectations and innovations for students' home away from home
University Business, November 2012
  • UPenn Lobby with fireplace
  • UPenn Lobby
  • Framingham State University
  • Framingham corridor
  • Framingham State barstools
  • Binghamton University Great Room Lounge
  • Fordham common area

With any campus building, what’s on the inside counts just as much—and probably more—than what’s on the outside. This is especially true with residence halls, which must include a balance of private and shared spaces. “The buildings need to promote interaction among students to encourage peer-to-peer learning in support of the institution’s academic mission,” says Jackson Kane, an associate and housing specialist at Lord, Aeck & Sargent. That’s no small order.

Whether rooms, suites, or apartments, the living areas of today’s residence halls are typically designed for modest comfort. “We tend to make the private living quarters as efficient as possible to allow more time, space, and budget to make common areas of the building attractive and inviting,” explains Kane. “Individual units tend to exhibit only subtle variations on a number of standard typologies, in contrast to the common areas, which exhibit a far wider degree of variety and innovation from project to project.”

Julia Nugent, a principal at HMFH Architects, says that for first- and second-year students still establishing themselves personally and socially, “common areas are the primary venue for connecting with others, studying in groups, and exploring new activities.” On the other hand, juniors and seniors, typically in suites or apartments, “are looking for an adult experience that simulates the real world that they will soon enter,” she notes. “The living space is often intentionally neutral, awaiting the personalization of the inhabitants.”

Take a look at the slideshow above for examples of how institutions are providing students with the comforts expected, as well as some more innovative interiors that help in shaping the residence life experience. 

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