In this day and age the system of learning goes hand in hand with acoustically sound air conditioned rooms, projectors, web cameras and computers. If you come across a space which doesn’t use all of this and is yet well suited for student activities, then of course one is pleasantly surprised. The new Branson Students’ Common provides a place for students to let their hair down and experience all that nature has to offer, enriching the learning experience and at the same time setting a fine example.
How do you envision something that is going to be an intrinsic part of every day that a student spends on campus? What makes it trickier is that its not a classroom space, rather a space where the students do all that they like to do.
With the sizes of classrooms growing, there is always the possibility of a very impersonal ambience. The least, and yet the best, the designer can sometime do is to make the common areas less intimidating and more relaxing. This new general area at Branson’s has a certain characteristic about it which keeps the students hooked, making them spend more time on campus especially in the interactive areas.
The Students’ common has a multitude of roles to play. It is not just a congregation space, but an alternative learning space. This common area in Branson High is refreshingly in tune with not only the scenic landscape of the campus but also with the present day need for sustainable architecture.
It is a place to accomplish day-to-day tasks, individual and collaborative, via any medium the students want. It gives them a host of options on the choice of ambience. Flexibility, to use the space as they like has been one of the priorities of this design.
The vibrant community of students comes alive in this airy, light and open shelter. The living roof, the photovoltaic panels, the large windows and other such features are key inclusions that have helped with the LEED certification that this building has acquired. All these features have been integrated very smartly, so energy consumption is minimal.
This space has been designed to become the focus of the campus, a place where knowledge is seeded into questioning minds, exchanged and received in different forms, nurtured and encouraged, without any mention of written codes or standards of function.
This is a far cry from the mundane centrally located student commons that scream of inefficiency in communicating with its users. This one attracts, it heals, and motivates. It acts as a catalyst to the social interaction, providing the much needed refuge for the flow of uninhibited ideas. For all this and more not even once does it impose an authority that is so typical of all buildings inside a student campus.
At the Branson Students’ Common the lack of partitions, the absence of heavy doors and dead opaque walls goes to show that it is actually the shared space that it is supposed to be.
The word common means ‘something that belongs to more than one person’. The Branson Students’ Common, belongs solely to the student community. A place they look forward to before starting the long day and a place that they are eager to end their day at; a place to relax and let the camaraderie take its natural course.
And it does much more! It flaunts to its very own students the beauty of its vast green campus around. It gives them the flight, it pushes them to be; in just the right way – poised and rising above the rest with feet firmly rooted and head held high. It reasserts itself as the heart of all activities, the hub of the colourful and cheerful life on campus, just the way it was intended to be. Style, comfort and good sense all become one here, just like a pair of old jeans: a low carbon footprint but a lot of style and comfort!
Text By Nimmy Joshi
Photographs David Wakely