Welcome to the largest living lab in the United States engaging students and Architects of Record in close to $1 million of added value,” shared Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design Professor Enric Ruiz-Geli while visiting VMDO in February 2020.
The founder of Virginia Tech’s Big Sticky Living Labs, Professor Ruiz-Geli shared his vision for student-led design and construction of key spaces in Virginia Tech's Creativity + Innovation District Living-Learning Community (CID LLC). Now, for the first time, students are getting the unique opportunity to help design those very spaces where they’ll learn, live, and connect.
Exterior Rendering of Virginia Tech's CID LLC
Since February, VMDO has been collaborating virtually with students and professors in Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS) on the fit-out of a flexible lounge, faculty apartment, and makerspace for the first floor of the CID LLC. On track to open in 2021, this residence hall will be the first building in Virginia Tech’s Creativity + Innovation District. Dedicated to fostering inter-disciplinary collaborations, the building will include indoor and outdoor spaces for the arts, performance, making, gathering, and learning. With the goal to bring students, faculty, and collaborators together, these spaces represent a forward-looking mindset that blurs traditional academic boundaries to promote creativity and innovation.
“The CID LLC is designed to bring students together across disciplines into an inspiring environment to live and learn. I can't think of a better way to accomplish that vision ... Student involvement in the design process is really bringing creativity and innovation to life in the new CID LLC."
Interim Assistant Vice President for Student Affair
Rendering of the Makerspace in the CID LLC
According to a press release issued by Virginia Tech, this student-led design-build project is the first of its kind in Virginia, and one of only a handful in the United States. Overall, it represents an investment of almost $1 million into the efforts, expertise, and dedication of College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS) students.
The "living lab" approach encourages students to play a leading role in integrating user-centric design and innovation into an iterative, on-campus research ecosystem. Working alongside VMDO and a host of other Virginia Tech representatives, students received feedback from university stakeholders on a weekly basis and navigated the often difficult task of integrating different viewpoints into a common vision for the project.
“To be able to work with that group of deans, architects, and university leaders – not only to gain knowledge from them, but also build relationships with them – was amazing. These people are changing the course of our campus, and we have a real opportunity to make an impact along with them.”
Interior Design Undergraduate Student
Students Present Design Concepts Developed for the CID LLC (Images Courtesy of Virginia Tech CAUS)
The final design proposed by students for the CID LLC student lounge integrates an experimental biophilic approach, one that takes its inspiration from the New River Valley. The ceiling of the 22-foot-tall room includes a custom felt installation that mimics the floor plan and flow of the valley itself. The felt piece not only looks like a river; it uses built-in sensors to adjust automatically to noise and limit the flow of sound waves, providing acoustical separation to help keep the space quiet. Custom and movable furniture pieces allow for flexible use of the space, while large windows invite in plentiful sunlight. Students focused on selecting materials that were sustainably sourced and sustainably used that carry hints to nature in their color and texture.
VMDO helped advance these concepts by producing architectural schematics that can be used for official permitting and building approvals.
Rendering of the Student Lounge in the CID LLC
Prototyping and construction of the student lounge, faculty apartment, and makerspace will begin during the fall 2020 semester at the College of Architecture and Urban Studies' Research and Demonstration Facility. Following state and university COVID-19 health and safety protocols, students will work alongside faculty experts, industry partners like VMDO, and contractors over the next year to bring the projects to full fruition.
The team plans to complete final installation of the designs in the CID LLC buildings during July 2021. This collaboration between students, faculty, and university administration has been a testament to Virginia Tech’s dedication to its educational and research mission.
“We’re letting our faculty members’ expertise in teaching, learning, nd research combine with the creativity of our own students to deliver a learning environment that will serve our campus community for decades. This is hands-on, minds-on learning at its best.”
Interim Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs
Rendering of the Makerspace in the CID LLC
For more information, read this press release from Virginia Tech.