Why Do Universities Leading In Research, Architecture, and Design Need Custom Furniture?
Did you know that Formaspace has manufactured new furniture installations for over 350 different colleges and universities?
We’re quite honored to help enhance learning experiences on campus by providing modern furniture solutions — for new and updated science and computer labs, lecture halls, classrooms, cafeterias, makerspaces and more. We also take great pride in the accomplishments of our college and university clients, so this week we’d like to share some latest developments at Texas A&M, Harvard University, Cornell University, and the University of Texas at Dallas.
Advances In Creating New Blood Vessels At Texas A&M
With a current enrollment of more than 68,000 students, Texas A&M is one of the largest universities in the country. And, like Texas itself (whose population has been growing 1.80% each year), Texas A&M has been expanding rapidly as well: 2017 saw 18,000 more students on campus compared to 2011.
The Scientific research and engineering programs at Texas A&M are very well respected and well-funded — the school ranks 16th in overall research and development funding.
Laboratory scientists at Texas A&M’s Inspired Nanomaterials and Tissue Engineering Lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering recently published new research on how to encourage new blood vessels to grow in the body, a process known as angiogenesis. Their new, novel method uses nanosilicates (essentially microscopic pieces of clay) to deliver specialized proteins that stimulate new blood vessel formation.
This technique may pave the way for new methods for delivering growth factors to the body, as well as providing new clinical options for healthcare providers performing tissue implants or healing wounds. The new research may also provide insight into how to prevent cancers from generating new blood vessels that allow tumors to grow.
According to biomedical engineering assistant professor Dr. Akhilesh K. Gaharwar, “clay nanoparticles work like tiny weak magnets that hold the growth factors within the polymeric hydrogels and release very slowly.” Dr. Gaharwar explains that “sustained and prolonged release of physiologically relevant doses of growth factors are important to avoid problems due to high doses, such as abrupt tissue formation.”
Texas A&M is also expanding its engineering programs on campus. However, the rapid growth of students posed a problem for the Dwight Look College of Engineering. Their landmark Zachry Engineering Building, built in 1972, was woefully undersized to serve today’s cohort of 18,000 engineering students, much less the expected enrollment of 25,000 students in 2025.
The challenge facing Texas A&M was to create a new, student-centric, state-of-the-art engineering design center that would fit within the existing facility footprint, yet provide space for more students. The school also wanted to transform the way students learn, by emphasizing peer-to-peer learning as well as providing hands-on experiences to design and build projects in cutting-edge makerspaces.
While Texas A&M is a public school, the project to create a new engineering facility was funded privately. In fact, the students themselves (represented by the Student Engineer’s Council) kicked off the fundraising campaign for the new facility — by donating $1 million toward the project. It was later matched by over $75 million in private donations.
After four years of construction, the new Zachry Engineering Education Complex, known by students as the “Zack,” was dedicated in September 2018. Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young hailed the new building as a stunning feat of engineering. At 525,000 square feet, the new facility is the largest academic building on the Texas A&M campus; the covered area is equivalent to 12 acres and could fit two Boeing 747 jets inside, parked nose-to-nose.
The New Building Features:
- Active learning classrooms
- 24×7 access to laboratories
- Collaborative meeting areas
- Faculty and administrative offices
- Starbucks with grab-and-go dining
- E-quad green space featuring math-inspired artwork
- 18 large classrooms for 100 students
- 14 smaller classrooms
- 60,000 square foot Fisher Engineering Design Center makerspace
President Young also praised the way the building supports modern, student-centered, flexible teaching methods. For example, in many of the classrooms, both the tables and chairs are mounted on wheels, which makes them easy to reconfigure for different needs. In the Eagle newspaper, Young said that these spaces are “active learning pods — not just classrooms — but places where students gather, where they work together, work on projects that they have an opportunity to internalize and actually use the things that they’re learning in the classroom with respect to engineering.”
Formaspace is very proud to have been part of the Zachary project. We manufactured over 200 desks and tables used in the student laboratories.
Designing A Custom Solution For Gund Hall At Harvard University’s Graduate School Of Design
From its inception in 1636 to today, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts reigns as one of the world’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning. Harvard consistently ranks in the top 10 of nearly all academic surveys (for example, it’s #8 on the survey of research and development funding).
Given the wealth of excellent academic programs at Harvard, it’s hard to identify which discipline stands above the others. But if we had to choose only one, we might select Harvard’s graduate-level architecture school, known as the Graduate School of Design, or GSD for short.
Each year, the website Design Intelligence surveys approximately 6000 architecture professionals, 360 academics, and 5,500 students to rank the best undergraduate and graduate architecture schools. In their survey for the 2019 academic year, Harvard’s Graduate School of Design once again swept into the top ranking among architecture graduate schools, a position it’s held since 2014. In the design intelligence survey, GSD was not only viewed as the most admired school, but it also took top honors in seven of its 12 architecture focus areas as well:
- Communication and presentation skills
- Design theory and practice
- Healthy built environments
- Interdisciplinary studies
- Project planning and management
- Practice management
Harvard GSD students spend much of their time working in the studio space at Gund Hall. The landmark building, designed by Australian-born GSD graduate John Andrews, opened in 1972. Thanks to a massive angled roof, the building lets the natural light shine in and provides views of downtown Boston. The individual studio work areas (known colloquially as the trays) are arranged stadium-style into five stair-stepped levels.
While Gund Hall’s design appears as fresh and modern as the day it was built, the individual student areas were due for a refresh after decades of use.
Here at Formaspace, we were quite honored to be commissioned by Harvard to build new furniture for these studio spaces.
In total, we built more than new 400 workbenches to replace the legacy furniture in the building. We also kitted out each studio bay with central “spines” that held chalkboard surfaces as well as pegboards with hooks for storage (such as holding backpacks).
To provide some privacy without blocking the natural light, we manufactured individual acrylic privacy panels with a translucent satin finish.
Certain characteristics of Gund Hall provided some unexpected challenges for our Formaspace design team. For example, over time, the floor surfaces along the different levels of the facility had become uneven, with some areas exhibiting as much as 1 to 2 inches variation in height across the six-foot spans.
Flexible fitting designs allow the installers to compensate for variations in the floor height during the on-site installation. There were also issues caused by solar gain within the building. As the sun’s position shifted throughout the day, light streaming inside the studio spaces created temperature changes that, in turn, caused the acrylic privacy panels to expand or contract; these also required special fittings to allow the attachments to slide unobtrusively throughout the day, avoiding warping or cracking. Finally, we were able to source Baltic birch plywood with a special UV coating for the work surfaces; this posed a special challenge for us because of recent shortages from our normal suppliers located in Japan.
What’s the future of Gund Hall? Harvard University recently announced that it has selected the Basel, Switzerland-based, Herzog & de Meuron and New York-based Beyer Blinder Belle to significantly transform Gund Hall into a “twenty-first-century center of design education and innovation.” We eagerly look forward to seeing the new design concepts proposed for this exceptional building.
New Directions At Cornell University’s College Of Architecture, Art And Planning
While Harvard’s graduate school of business may have swept the gamut of awards for graduate studies in architecture, when it comes to undergraduate architecture programs, it’s Cornell University that reigns supreme.
The school, located in the scenic Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, ranks #13 nationally in research and development funding. It’s also held the top honors for its undergraduate architecture program since 2015, according to the survey from Design Intelligence, which once again rated it as the most admired undergraduate architecture program.
Cornell was also cited as the leading undergraduate institution in four areas of architecture studies:
- Communication and presentation skills
- Design theory and practice
- Interdisciplinary studies
But Cornell’s architecture program is not sitting on its laurels. They recently appointed Meejin Yoon as the new Dean of College of Architecture, Art and Planning, the first woman named to the position since the college was formed in 1896. Yoon obtained her bachelor of architecture degree at Cornell in the early 1990s and later went on to receive her Masters of Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Speaking to Architect magazine, Yoon looks back on the importance of the studio in the education of an architect. “My first encounter with student culture at Cornell was one of intensity. Design studios at Cornell were and are places of intense exploration, testing, making, and real discovery. Studio is a mode of knowledge that is necessarily hands-on, messy, engaged, debated, tested, and constructed. It is hard to learn without doing, and doing in a context of equally intense coaching, critique, and conversation.
The other thing about studio culture is that it is also social. It produces an esprit de corps between students and with faculty. The experience of a design studio is a kind of alchemy. Real-time collective creative learning in design studios is how the design disciplines are distinct from other disciplines. Studio teaching produces its own social dynamic. The intensity of studios and the format of reviews, critiques, and presentations, forges a set of skills that build the capacity to articulate a design to a larger audience. Architecture requires many of these skills: the discursive, the polemical. It also requires conviction, intensity, and chutzpah.”
We were very honored to be asked to supply furniture for the studio spaces in Cornell University’s Architecture Program. We provided the school with 310 custom Basix Benches, each kitted out with laminate plywood work surfaces. We also supplied 230 custom storage units kitted out with two stacked file drawers.
The University Of Texas At Dallas Uncovers The Strength Of Miniature Semiconducting Crystals — And How To Keep Them Cool
The final Formaspace education customer that we’d like to showcase is the University of Texas at Dallas.
While you naturally may be more familiar with its flagship campus here in Austin, the University of Texas system has 14 major educational institutions across the state of Texas. Founded in 1969, The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) is located about 18 miles north of central Dallas in the town in Richardson, Texas.
UT Dallas’ roots go back to the early 1960s when it was a research arm of the electronics company Texas Instruments, who subsequently donated the facility to the state of Texas to create the UT Dallas campus. Among its many accolades, the school can count four Nobel prizes among its accomplishments, and US News and World Report rank UT Dallas in among the top tier of national universities in its new 2019 university survey.
Recently, scientists at UT Dallas have uncovered the unexpected strength of miniature crystals. Working in the lab of Dr. Jeremiah Gassensmith, graduate student Madushani Dharmarwardana was investigating the properties of organic semiconducting materials called naphthalene diimides. When she heated the crystals in the laboratory, Dharmarwardana found that “The crystals would bend, coil, flex or jump, they would do all sorts of things.” She also took note that the crystals not only changed color when heated, they would also expand dramatically (by almost 20%), which is practically unheard of in natural materials. In a further experiment, she measured how much weight the crystals could lift — incredibly, they could support weights almost 100 times heavier than the crystals themselves. The researchers have filed a patent for this discovery and are pursuing licensing opportunities for the technology for commercial applications.
Meanwhile, other researchers at UT Dallas are studying heat absorptive properties of boron arsenide crystals, which could help semiconductors run cooler, which, in turn, could allow microprocessors to run at a higher capacity without overheating.
“We have been working on this research for the last three years, and now have gotten the thermal conductivity up to about 1,000 watts per meter-kelvin, which is second only to diamond in bulk materials,” said Bing Lv (pronounced “love”), Assistant Professor of Physics in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at UT Dallas.
We’re also honored to be selected by the University of Dallas as a supplier for the laboratory furniture used in the education laboratories. We manufactured heavy-duty workbenches with solid maple tops for their classroom laboratories.
Best regards from Formaspace on the recent scientific discoveries at UT Dallas — we look forward to many more to come in the future.
Turn To Formaspace For Innovative Education Solutions To Enhance Your Classrooms, Laboratories, And Makerspaces
If you can imagine it, we can build it.
From classrooms to makerspaces, to laboratories, Formaspace can build custom solutions that will enhance your educational facilities.
All our products are made here in the USA at our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas. They are built to withstand the toughest environments, from industrial manufacturing facilities to distribution centers, and, naturally, education facilities as well.
We have built custom furniture for more than 350 different educational institutions across the USA, will yours be next?