Improving Design Can Improve Interaction

<p>This piece from <em>The Chronicle of Higher Education</em> looks at the role design plays in encouraging interaction amongst academics and calls out for better planning.</p>
March 20, 2008, 5am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Over the past decade, we've heard a great deal about the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration on college campuses. Institutional policies now reward the 'teaming' of formerly isolated disciplines in both teaching and research. Medical education, for example, increasingly includes courses in the humanities, and behavioral, social, and physical scientists increasingly work together in public-health research. In response, planners and designers have been asked to develop buildings that encourage interaction."

"[R]eal interaction occurs in public spaces designed to support specific functions, not in spaces designed simply as generic gathering areas. Another impediment to interdisciplinary collaboration is the politics of space. In some respects, you might say that the politics of space is embedded in the traditional culture of academe-the more space you have, the more important you and/or your department are."

"Even in colleges that are committed to sustainable design (where you might think wasteful space would be anathema), you find faculty members with multiple offices; research labs that are used for storage; and classrooms that remain underutilized for entire semesters. Frequently this phenomenon is perpetuated by hard boundaries between academic units. Wouldn't rethinking how space is allocated allow us to use it more efficiently and effectively?"

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Published on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 in The Chronicle of Higher Education
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