Spectrum Design Architecs | Engineers

Roanoke College: West Hall Computer Lab Renovation

Salem, Virginia

In this project Roanoke College challenged Spectrum to create two new state-of-the-art computer classrooms in West Hall, one of the college's most historic structures. The existing computer classroom was located in the basement and was too long and narrow for effective teaching. Consequently the first task was determining a suitable location for the new classrooms that balanced the need to be historically sympathetic and economically responsible with the need of not taking any traditional classrooms offline.

Spectrum initially presented four possible locations for the classrooms and worked directly with faculty, staff, and affected department heads, to choose a location that would best balance these desires. Following the determination of location, the second task of the project was to balance the aesthetics of high-tech computer classrooms within the historic context while providing classroom space that would accommodate various teaching styles, appeal to current and prospective students, and not be discordant with the historic character of the building.

These objectives were accomplished in a variety of ways including:

  • Three-inch raised flooring with "plug and play" capabilities and easy reconfiguration for flexibility to assist various teaching styles from semester to semester.
  • A unique furniture layout for each room to accommodate different teaching methodologies.
  • Removal of existing acoustic ceiling, exposing the structure and installing "acoustic clouds" to provide dynamic spaces while still being mindful of potential sound issues.
  • New dual switched direct/ indirect pendent fixtures that reduce screen glare. Ability to light only teaching area while leaving the student's area darkened.
  • Chalkboard paint used on some walls to provide more informal teaching areas.
  • Maintain all historical elements within the rooms and provide sharp contrast between historic shell and high-tech infill, balancing the aesthetics of the two.
  • Warm color palette utilizing historic paint colors employed in unconventional ways that allow the rooms to blend high-energy and high-tech with historic without becoming sterile.

The final challenge of the project was providing the rooms in-budget and within a very limited timeframe (six weeks) without losing any of the aforementioned objectives. This involved working closely with the college and its selected contractor to maintain costs while ensuring minimal adjustments to the original design. Spectrum's ability to be creative and adaptable while still keeping site of the project's goals helped this project be a success.