The future of engineering is sleek, functional and above all, adaptable. The future of engineering is also at the University of Kansas.
Associate Dean JoAnn Browning unveiled architectural designs for the Learned Engineering Expansion Phase 2 project to School of Engineering students, faculty and staff on May 1.
“There may be some small fine-tuning, but pretty much we’ll be able to show what we’ll have in August of 2015,” Browning said.
Treanor Architects worked closely with a number of committees during the past year and a half to create a new center of attention for the KU Engineering Complex that is as useful as it is stunning.
The $80-million building project — funded in large part through the bonding authority approved by the Kansas Legislature in May 2011 — focuses on two new structures that provide an additional 135,000 square feet of classroom, laboratory and office space.
“One of our big needs going into this new space was to have new classrooms,” Browning said. “A lot of faculty right now are having to leave the Engineering Complex to teach their classes. With this new space we’ll be able to accommodate all our courses within the Engineering Complex.”
The new classrooms come in a variety of sizes and employ newer designs that help ensure students receive a quality learning experience despite growing enrollments. Unlike a traditional tiered lecture hall, the classrooms will have flat floors, tables for groups of students to interact collaboratively and a variety of novel audio-visual devices to ensure students can take in instructional material from every point in the room.
“We came to the opinion that we really wanted to move forward and we really wanted to design these spaces so we would be engaging students in the best way possible.” The designs Treanor Architects developed also offer a level of flexibility that allow professors or guest lecturers to present information without placing the students or speaker in awkward locations.
The main campus building, which will nestle snuggly among Learned Hall, Spahr Library and the recently opened Measurement, Materials and Sustainable Environment Center, also features a variety of teaching and research labs and open collaboration areas.
As the School of Engineering grows the size of its faculty to meet student needs, the building is playing a secondary, but crucial role.
“We have faculty research space for the new faculty we are recruiting. … As candidates come in and are considering coming to KU, we can show them this and say ‘We are building this for you. We can put your new equipment in these spaces.’” And that’s been very successful so far,” Browning said.
Central to the building’s existence is an enhanced undergraduate recruitment and retention area on the first floor that is both visually and physically welcoming.
“This really brings together the entire engineering complex,” she said. “It becomes a sort of crossroads between of all the different areas of engineering. So if we bring in new people and recruits, they’ll be walking into this grand open space that has two stories of light, the student recruitment and retention center. …And we are connecting with the library, opening up this space so the library flows seamlessly into this new facility.”
The café on the east end of Spahr Library will move to the west end and be expanded. The library will be renovated to provide offices for student organizations and spaces that can be reserved for group study or other projects. Library staff has evaluated the use of publications in the stacks over the last 10 years. Armed with that information, they have put forward a proposal to move underutilized publications to the library annex, which offers 24-hour retrieval. The reclaimed space will open additional study space on the second floor and allow creation of a workroom so student organizations or individuals can complete projects that require a little more room than most.
A major facet of the expansion project is the creation of a high-bay facility on KU’s West Campus. The structure will provide 10,000 square feet for the structural testing area, with a 40-foot wall. In addition there will be another 3,000 square feet set aside for student projects. Although the facility is removed from the Engineering Complex, travel to and from it is fast and free through KU’s Park & Ride bus system.
Work on the entire expansion project is about to begin. Turner Construction will begin work on utilities for the West Campus structure this May. Utility work for the Engineering Complex structure should begin in July. Perhaps the most disruptive aspect of the project will be the effort to incorporate Spahr Library. Project leaders are considering closing half of the library or shutting down a floor at a time. The high bay facility is expected to be complete by fall 2014 and the main structure at the Engineering Complex is expected to be ready for occupancy in summer 2015, in time for the start of the fall semester.
“We’re hoping to schedule classes in the main campus in that fall,” Browning said. “But one thing we want to do is make sure we have all facilities well tested before we get in there.”
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