How Sasaki Is Shaping the Future of the World’s Higher Education Campuses
Over the past few years, educational campuses around the world have been confronted with various trends and challenges of change, such as pandemic adaptation, climate crisis, the responsibility for sustainable design and online teaching. Sasaki Architecture, with offices in Boston, Denver and Shanghai, specialises in planning educational campuses around the world. With a broad portfolio of projects at various scales of intervention, recent projects in the United States, China, Mexico and Peru stand out.
In current planning, there is a strong emphasis on sustainability and resilience in response to the climate emergency. This is often manifested through the reuse and renovation of existing facilities. This way, the award-winning master plan for the University of Wyoming campus in the United States, completed in 2020, promotes the renovation of existing buildings, mobility and landscape to transform the academic campus experience. The proposed master plan is based on five axes: discovery and learning, return to residential roots, student experience, pedestrian-friendliness and welcoming campus.
Similarly, the five-award winning master plan of the South Bay Campus of Xinyang University (XYU) in China succeeds in distinguishing the school as a 21st-century liberal arts institution that promotes ecologically and socially conscious community learning. Accordingly, comprehensive sustainability strategies are used, such as energy efficiency, waste management and topsoil conservation. Buildings are designed to reduce campus energy consumption through the use of natural ventilation and maximizing solar gain in winter, along with the installation of photovoltaic and solar water heating panels.
In Latin America, there is a greater focus on the creation of new types of buildings and programs that are related to the growth and introduction of new professional careers. This way, the change in pedagogy at TEC de Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico promotes a challenge-based education system. This has led Sasaki to rethink the campus system, developing a series of new buildings, such as the Library and the “La Carreta” Pavilion. Both are characterised by flexibility of design, allowing them to adapt to future changes in learning needs. Similarly, the master plan for the University of Lima in Peru aims to change the everyday experience of the university community. To this end, the new buildings under construction, such as the Student Recreation Center and the Engineering Innovation Centre, promote hybrid spaces that bring together student services, welfare and recreation in order to enrich and diversify the academic experience on campus.
One of the biggest challenges the firm has faced when working in the Latin American market has been governmental governmental institutional instability in conjunction with the financial uncertainty it generates. “Changes in regulatory frameworks influence issues such as degree accreditation, campus space requirements, faculty ratios and student populations, and have often affected objectives and outcomes in the planning process,” explains Principal Architect Pablo Savid-Buteler.
In addition, the Sasaki architecture office has been confronted with the global challenges generated by climate change and the recent pandemic. Senior Planner Caitlyn Clauson, comments on how “climate change is driving institutions to better understand the most pressing threats and stressors that pose risks to their campuses and to plan and design responses accordingly.” Related to the above, Senior Planner Tyler Patrick mentions how “the pandemic accelerated some of the trends we were already seeing in higher education, such as classroom and office design. We have to ask ourselves, at the age of more virtual working and learning, What role does the physical campus play? ,” he says.
Likewise, “the pandemic alone has acted as an accelerator for long-anticipated changes in the design of Latin American colleges and universities,” says Principal Architect Pablo Savid-Buteler, adding how in this context “in addition to rethinking space standards, the pandemic has highlighted the need to create highly adaptable, healthier and more sustainable buildings.In the Latin American context, we have seen an accelerated transition from traditional teaching modalities in outdated classroom spaces to flexible, participatory and virtual classroom environments.”
In this way, many of the design and planning strategies that emerged in response to new global changes seem to be here to stay. The global company Sasaki cites among them: a greater urgency to address accessibility and universal design, resilience planning in response to climate change, designing spaces that are inclusive, creative financing strategies along with fiscal resilience, and flexibility of buildings and spaces in response to programmatic changes.