5 new classroom design trends you’ll see on campuses across Alabama this fall

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linger space
Wouldn’t you want to hang out here? Auburn’s Horton Hardgrave Hall. Photo via Williams Blackstock Architects

If you haven’t been on a college campus for a while, you might be surprised at some of the new classroom design trends. To learn more about what students at Alabama, Auburn, UAB and Montevallo can look forward to this fall, we talked to the experts at Williams Blackstock Architects. Here’s what they said.

atrium in Mello Classroom Building, heading to library Auburn
Auburn’s Mell Classroom Building leads right into the library. Photo via Williams Blackstock Architects

According to Stephen Allen, Matt Foley and Binx Newton, principal architects at Williams Blackstock Architects, universities are wanting to achieve a few key goals, including: 

  • Transforming the academic experience for students and faculty. 
  • Promoting a variety of teaching methods.
  • Encouraging highly collaborative interaction inside and outside of classrooms. 
  • Creating comfortable and welcoming spaces where students can feel at home.
  • Plus a whole lot more.

If you had to boil it all down to one word, though, that word would be collaboration. 

Classroom design trends

While there are a lot of trends emerging in innovative classroom design, we decided to focus on the top five. 

You can find examples of these at Auburn’s Mell Classroom Building, University of Alabama’s Hewson Hall, Montevallo’s Stephens College of Business and UAB’s Collat School of Business. 

1. Atriums that serve as academic living rooms

Atrium, Collat School of Business
This atrium serves as a living room at Collat School of Business. Photo via Williams Blackstock Architects

Large sunlit, multi-story atriums serve as a living room and a heart to a building, school or campus. 

Glass walls invite anyone who enters to see all the learning opportunities before them. 

2. Linger spaces

Linger space, Auburn's Mell Classroom Building
This is a linger space at Auburn’s Mell Classroom Building. Photo via Williams Blackstock Architects

How do you create spaces where students and faculty want to come early and stay late? This is a central part of creating immersive learning experiences, where learning isn’t just confined to the classroom. 

Designers call these “linger spaces” or “sticky spaces.”

3. Flipped classrooms

flipped classroom
A flipped classroom at Auburn’s Horton Hardgrave Hall. Photo via Williams Blackstock Architects

In classrooms like these, students can turn to face the professor, then turn back around to face each other for small group breakout sessions.

Spin, baby, spin. 

4. Specialized rooms for sales, board meetings, ideation or stock trading

board rooms are one of the classroom design trends
Board Room at Montevallo’s Stephens College of Business. Photo via Williams Blackstock Architects

Business schools, in particular, are incorporating these types of specialized rooms. 

Emerging leaders can don their suits and ties to practice board meetings. 

Up-and-coming stock traders can learn the art of trading on special Bloomberg stations, while watching stock tickers in their specialized trading rooms. 

Future sales executives can engage in sales simulations in specially-designed sales classrooms where they can get real-time feedback from professors and fellow students. 

And budding entrepreneurs can work out their ideas in designated ideation rooms. 

How cool is that? 

5. Auditoriums that double as storm shelters

classroom design trends: auditoriums that double as storm shelters
An auditorium that doubles as a storm shelter at the Collat School of Business. RAMSA: Robert A.M. Stern Architects + Williams Blackstock Architects. Photo via Williams Blackstock Architects

One of the coolest innovations in classroom design was born of necessity. 

After the tornadoes of April 27, 2011, the Alabama State Legislature mandated that future construction on college campuses had to include storm shelters.

Both UAB Collat and Hewson Hall feature auditoriums in the basement that double as storm shelters.

Want to learn more about architecture and design? Follow Williams Blackstock Architects at their website, on Facebook and on Instagram

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Sharron Swain
Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference
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