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Home, Squared

Meet Cube, a tiny house (100 square feet). Its designer, Dr. Mike Page, an engineer and Reader in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire‘s School of Psychology, thinks the concepts embodied in the little building could help change architecture and the way we live. At the link (it leads you to the Huffington Post), you can take a tour of the tiny house and see its space-saving features: Ingenious storage options; unconventional stairs that look like building blocks, which take up less space than standard stairs or a ladder; and a table that can move horizontally within grooves on the wall, to allow for various uses. All this…and a washer too. Page says the house is designed for one person, though two people could live there, if they like each other a lot. Solar panels on the roof provide the power needed for all the appliances. Even in relatively cloudy Britain, the house would pay its inhabitants to live there in the summer, as it would produce more power than it needs. The excess would be sold to the national grid, netting the owner about £1,000 (about $1,641).

There space-saving and energy-conservation ideas here that can be applied to student residences…or homes in general; what do you think? What sort of clever space-saving solutions have you seen your students use?

Website Facelifts

Even if it’s not mentioned anywhere in your job description, odds are your work is affected by the website for your campus and/or housing department. And, for better or worse, because the Internet has become so pervasive in our society, most everyone has an opinion about how a website should be organized if for no other reason than “I’m online all the time…”

I happened to come across two separate articles this morning that provided some valuable insight into how to organize and create a website. The first comes from The Chronicle of Higher Education and it does an excellent job of demonstrating how a variety of campuses made their websites speak to the real needs of the users. Sometimes it was done by re-organizing the site. Sometimes the answer was back-end technology. And other times it was simply a matter of how a story was written. The important thing in all the cases, though was to identify what the user really wants to see (versus what the campus really wants to say, which are sometimes polar opposites), make it easy to find, and present it in a way that’s easiest to digest. Really a must read.

The second article is less directly tied to campus life, but still applicable. This article, from the Fast Company design blog, looks at the work of a design company that was tasked with building a website for an architecture firm. The catch was to build the site without relying on many of the “tricks” commonly found on architecture sites (yeah Flash, we’re looking at you). To do this, the Bruce Mau Design team both immersed themselves in the subject, but also distanced themselves enough to look for new solutions. The resulting site was as unique as some of the Studio Gang building designs.

How does the website for your campus or department hold up? Are you providing what your customers are looking for?

UPDATE: Was just reminded by a coworker of this cartoon which sums up the Chronicle story nicely.

What To Build, And Why

Thanks to this economic slump (to put it mildly), construction of new buildings has slowed, after nearly stopping for a period. Thus, we haven’t had much about construction on here in a while. But we will surely build again, so it’s a good time to think about the topic in the abstract.

Here’s an essay considering if it’s absolutely essential to have all the buildings on a campus match each other. This is a long-running debate. There’s problems with doggedly following a single style and equal issues with allowing a sort of architectural anarchy to take over. The happy medium, however, is difficult to achieve, especially when time, money, expertise and hindsight are limited.

What’s your campus policy on architecture? Did anyone from housing have input on it? How has this impacted your buildings?

Is Your Hall as Cool as an iPad?

Okay. Part of this post is due to the fact that we didn’t want to be the only blog in the blogisphere to NOT have a post about the iPad. But it also came to mind as I was reading this post in the all-things-tech blog Gizmodo. In the story (as well as this one here) the authors discuss what constitutes “good” design and whether or not the iPad conforms to those rules.

The writers go back to the principles of designer Dieter Rams — who is famous for his Braun product designs of the 1950s and ’60s — who had 10 rules for good design. According to Rams:

  • Good design is innovative.
  • Good design makes a product useful.
  • Good design is aesthetic.
  • Good design helps us to understand a product.
  • Good design is unobtrusive.
  • Good design is honest.
  • Good design is durable.
  • Good design is consequent to the last detail.
  • Good design is concerned with the environment.
  • Good design is as little design as possible.

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Spotlight: Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Editor’s Note: Spotlight is a recurring feature in this blog as well as Talking Stick magazine that focuses on newly-opened residence halls. Whether it is through design, construction, programs, or features, we look to put the spotlight on those deserving halls. To submit a hall from your campus, e-mail

Campus: Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, Massachusetts)
Name: East Hall
Opened: July 2008
Cost: $33 million (construction)
Architect: Cannon Design

When Worcester Polytechnic Institute set out to create East Hall, it was with the goal of attracting upperclass students to stay on campus. When completed, it certainly did that with 232 beds in a mix of single- and double-room suites and studio apartments. Students appreciated the building’s amenities and services such as laundry facilities, waste removal and recycling, a fitness room, academic study space, music practice rooms, a game room, and a parking garage. But the LEED Gold-certified building also made a strong statement to the campus’ sustainability commitment.

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