Bradley University’s Westlake Hall: A Collaborative Environment

The modernization of Bradley University's Westlake Hall has accomplished much more than the restoration and expansion of a beautiful, historic academic building. Today, this landmark building provides an open, collaborative environment that enhances student interaction and multimedia learning both within and beyond the classroom. In describing the university's vision, Dr. Joan Sattler, dean of the College of Education & Health Sciences, says: "We wanted the learning to flow from within the classroom throughout the building, with students gathering and working together in these vibrant, comfortable spaces."

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The second oldest building on the university's Peoria campus, Westlake Hall is now six times its original size, with a new center atrium, classrooms, labs, resources areas, an auditorium, offices, and conference spaces. In both classrooms and public spaces, furniture and technology play a key role in creating opportunities for students to gather, present and explore ideas, and problem-solve.

Flexibility and Mobility

When the building opened in 1897 as a center for the study of horology (watchmaking), students worked independently in long rows of desks and tables. Today, classroom flexibility is critical, as students are often encouraged to work as partners or in groups. Classroom furniture highlights include:

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  • Mobile tables in a trapezoid shape to facilitate reconfiguration, along with mobile chairs

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  • Computers set up in pods in the technology classroom, with four individual computers as well as a central wall-mounted screen for group work
  • Computer monitors mounted on adjustable, adaptable monitor arms so that computers can be moved out of the way for usable tabletop space

A Variety of Seating

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The spacious atrium is a setting that is "not only a wonderful, serene space in which to read and study," according to Dr. Sattler, it also "contributes to a more collaborative environment for the students." Again, the furniture helps provide the cues for the informal interaction, in particular through a variety of lounge, bleacher-style, café-style, and banquette seating. The spaces range in size—from intimate alcoves to large, open gathering areas; and are comfortable, well-lit, and technology-friendly. Highlights include:

  • Lounge seating and tables that support both individual study and group discussion, with side tables that feature glass markerboard tops and group tables with markerboard tops and storage underneath
  • Large banquette seating with a walk-up "touchdown area," also with a glass markerboard top
  • Walls near seating areas designed as "collaboration walls" with alternating areas of pin-up corkboard and markerboard paint
  • A step-down bleacher area including pillows and a digital screen at the bottom for meetings and presentations

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Encouraging Interaction to Prepare Our Future Leaders

A century ago, Westlake Hall was renowned as one of the nation's most modern and well-appointed academic buildings. Today, Bradley University students have brought new energy to this hard-working campus icon, thriving in open, efficient, and inviting spaces that encourage interaction. As Dr. Sattler has noted, "Now we have classrooms, labs, and resource areas that meet the specific needs of our programs. We also have the open, inviting space for collaboration. That was important to us as we wanted the building to support cross-disciplinary study and problem-solving. Our mission is to prepare future leaders."

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  • Amanda Voorhees
    Amanda Voorhees
 
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