Resident halls are unique environments which rely on both individual resident rooms and shared community spaces. (Honors Residence Hall, University of Akron)
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, according to Aristotle. Nowhere is this truer than residence halls, which rely on both individual resident rooms and shared community spaces to create a true community.
What are those shared community spaces?
Two kinds of primary community spaces are study lounges and social lounges. Study lounges are generally enclosed for sound control, and flexibly furnished so that both individuals or small groups can use them. They often have white boards, or even projection capabilities, so that students can engage in communal learning. Ideally the enclosure is transparent so that students still feel connected to the rest of the residence hall, while providing acoustic control and a sense of privacy.
A transparent study lounge where students can feel connected to the rest of the residence hall. (Falcon Heights, Bowling Green State University)
Social lounges, by comparison, can be enclosed or not. Furnishings are generally soft seating for social gatherings, and AV connections are for watching DVDs, video, and gaming. They are meant to feel connected to the rest of the building, and be both inviting and inclusive by nature.
A social lounge with soft seating for social gatherings. (Spicer Hall, University of Akron)
Another important community space that makes a residence hall a great place to live and learn are ‘residual spaces’. These are the left over spaces in a building, such as a small nook or the end of a corner, where only a seat or two are placed. Despite their name, these are often the most popular spaces in a building. These are the places where students make a phone call, read, or meet a friend.
Residual spaces take advantage of small nooks where students can make phone calls, read, or meet a friend. (Honors Residence Hall, University of Akron)
In a successful residential hall design, even utility spaces can become active and popular community spaces. Laundry rooms and community kitchens, properly located, can become open, inviting spaces to meet and gather. Elevator lobbies are natural meeting spaces, particularly once you add mailboxes, a bulletin board, or a few chairs.
Thought through utility spaces can become active and popular community spaces for meeting and gathering (Centennial Hall, Bowling Green State University)
Residence halls are a home away from home for students. Like a home, they need a mix of private space for each student, as well as spaces which make them part of a larger community. A good mix of community spaces, designed to serve different needs and properly distributed throughout the building, ensures that a residence hall is not a dorm but a community.
To see how we’ve implemented these spaces in our student housing projects, please visit our student housing portfolio.
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