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What We Know About Planning Learning Spaces and What We Still Need to Know

2010 PKAL Learning Spaces Colloquium

This colloquium brought architects, planners, campus administrators and academics together for three days to explore the future of learning spaces. On November 6, 2010, Andrew Frontini, Perkins+Will Principal and Mary Ann Mavrinac, Chief Librarian at University of Toronto Mississauga presented Vision+Evolution: Lives of Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Center a look at what happens when a learning environment becomes the victim of its own success.

The MCCallion Learning Center was designed as a place that prioritized space for student collaboration and study over space for collections, but as soon as the center opened, unexpected and unprecedented challenges were encountered. The center quickly became the center of gravity for the entire university, leading to severe overcrowding and disruptive behavior as socialization began to interfere with study and collaborative work. By the end of the first year, the university and design team decided to re-assess the space. Lisa Given, Ph.D., a professor at University of Alberta who has studied undergraduate information behaviors, was asked to work with the team assessing campus space and student behavior. The result has been a series of adaptations and spatial cues that support the seamless way students learn and socialize. The center will continue to evolve and adapt as it responds to changes in learning, teaching and information access.