In 2005, a retreat was held for the entire engineering faculty and staff, some students, some alumni, and friends of the college. Led by the college’s dean emeritus, Dr. Stan Jaskolski, the group began to articulate a vision for the new building. As the conversation evolved, there was excitement about the concept of teaching-research houses, with offices, labs and classrooms grouped by emphasis.
It would be a comfortable place, inviting to students, dotted with commons spaces for grads and undergrads together. K-12 outreach would be highlighted. There would be room enough for discovery learning — that is, learning through action and application. Switzenbaum also remembers an emphasis on sustainability that grew into a commitment to make this a green building. “It’ll be a LEED building,” he says, referring to the nation’s premier green building rating system, administered by the United States Green Building Council. “It would really be hypocritical not to when we’re teaching our students that they need to think about sustainability and long-term viability.” After all, the building would need to have a useful life of 100 years.
energy supplies. As problems mount, the need for effective, creative problem-solvers will grow. Science and society will demand more engineers, says Bishop, but we can’t simply spin the wheels of traditional education faster. Times have changed. Engineering has changed. It’s complex, interdisciplinary and systemsbased. Work is collaborative. Our body of knowledge has ballooned, yet there is a demand for it to be easily searchable and sortable and available instantly to the nearest laptop or smartphone. For engineering to play the pivotal role Bishop envisions for it, engineering education and the spaces that house it need to be rethought, too.
5 // Illuminator of Innovation
“How can we know what’s going to be needed in 100 years?” asks Switzenbaum. “Twenty years ago, could you have imagined what we’re doing now?” So flexibility was built in. There are few load-bearing interior walls, no furniture bolted to the floor. Power and utilities are supplied from above and below. Almost the entire interior could be swept away and reconfigured if necessary. There’s WiFi everywhere in the hall, but there are also conduits for cable, just in case. “That should cover us, but who knows?” Switzenbaum continues. “I’d love it if one of our students found a better way to transfer data and made us look dumb. That’s what we want to inspire students to do.” Realization of the design fell to OPUS Architects and Engineers, a Minneapolis design/build firm working with University Architect Tom Ganey. “Tom is a visionary architect,” Bishop says. “He was able to provide us with guidance.” The OPUS team, led by Terry Helland, embraced the collaborative and innovative spirit this project required. “Because of their training, engineers inherently have a much better understanding of design processes, systems and elements,” said Helland of working with
For engineering to play the pivotal role Bishop envisions for it, engineering education and the spaces that house it need to be rethought, too.