The 21st century is about new forms of interaction and new forms of groups. These self-organized groups were unwelcome in 20th century work and learning environments, but nowadays have become the norm. The physical typology of academic environments has not changed since its origins in the postindustrial era. In this old mode, teachers were the only source of knowledge, whereas today knowledge is within reach of any digital device. As a result, today’s students no longer come to campus in search of knowledge, but to find new opportunities, networks and interactions that result from the evolution (and revolution) in technology. These informal social atmospheres defined by Ray Oldenburg as, “third Places,” enable this new way of interaction.
Because University campuses are shaped to address a variety of formal learning methodologies, they tend to rarely allocate space for third places where social interaction and informal learning occurs. Sociologist Ray Oldenburg (1997, 1998,2001) defined third places as a place outside of home and work that serves as a place to find comfort, retreat, and community. Oldenburg (2001) gives the following explanation: “... third place,” a setting beyond home and work ... in which people relax in good company and do so on a regular basis.
Oldenburg (1997) also discusses the application of this concept to college and university environments, noting its importance in the formation of a student community (Santassiero, 2002).
Third places are usually associated with a Sense of Place. The latter is often described as the emotional attachment to a particular geographical/physical space (Hiss, 1990; Gallagher, 1993), and it plays an important role on College Campuses. A direct application of the sense of place concept to the campus environment has also been explored (Bott, Banning, Wells, Hass, & Lakey, 2006; Demonica & Oguerk, 2002; Kenney, Dumont & Kenney, 2005; Reeve & Kassabaum, 1997; and Sturner, 1992). These studies relate the sense of place to general campus ecology, suggesting that the emotional relationship to place plays an important role in attracting prospective students, supports higher enrollment retention rates, and increases institutional giving by alumni (Reeve & Kassabaum, 1997).
The significance of student spaces was also shown in a study by the University of Nevada which revealed that freshman students whose bedrooms lack of environmental semiotics, such as University posters, flags, colors, etc., had a 70% higher risk from dropping from classes in their first year.
The association of College Unions International speaks to this phenomenon:
“… In the last century, the mindset was the exact opposite: The zeitgeist of the 20th century was all about efficiency—breaking each thing down into its smallest constituent parts, standardizing those, and putting everything back together in hierarchical order, so as to produce more, better, faster. The 20th century was about separating things, not uniting them. It was about standardizing, not customizing. It was about discrete objects. The spaces in between them? Not so much. Relationships? Problematic. The 21st century is emerging as the “Knowledge Era.” If “efficiency” was the buzzword of the 20th century, then “collaboration” is the buzzword of the 21st. The 21st century will be more focused on self-organized interaction and relationship building.”
The ASU Memorial Union underwent a major renovation, redesigning the “walk-through” nature of the space into a gathering space that can facilitate a wide variety of informal learning interactions. There have been a series of similar renovations to create “sticky spaces” to build a sense of community on multiple levels of the Tempe campus. The end goal is to create an environment that fosters innumerable interpersonal connections that accrue into an overall sense of community. Its success lies in the dynamic approach to design that focuses on people, usually referred to as “active design.” It aims for students to develop both mind and body, as well as establish habits for lifelong health and wellbeing. The concept explores planning strategies that promote an active lifestyle that is balanced by places for relaxation and reflection.
Carels (2015) identifies campus recreation centers as:
“… well-known example of active design, as they have become a primary social destination and recruiting tool for universities. These dynamic student life hubs are becoming the place on campus to see and be seen by fellow students, promoting a social group environment for student discovery and collaboration…
We engaged in learning about life through play and other physical activities, interacting with people and things while being in nature. With active design, the campus experience promotes an active lifestyle through exploration of the built environment and social interaction. Lifelong health and wellness is achieved through a series of informed choices you make in life. Through intentional teachable moments, active design concepts are reshaping higher education facilities and preparing students for a lifelong commitment to health and wellness by reminding us of the joy of an active lifestyle”
Students are the daily users and performers of university campus infrastructure. They do a thorough scrutiny of the spaces they can inhabit for every task throughout the day. They know better than everybody else, what is working, what is not working, and what is missing. ASU students are also part of a larger community that includes the City of Tempe and the rest of the valley, how can ASU infrastructure serve the larger public good? How can these new ideas re envisioning the Sun Devil Stadium as a 365 Third Place reflect the values of the “Design Imperatives of a New American University”?
1- Leverage Our Place - ASU embraces its culture, socioeconomic and physical setting.
2- Enable Student Success - ASU is committed to the success of each unique student.
3- Transform Society - ASU catalyzes social change by being connected to social needs.
4- Fuse Intellectual Disciplines - ASU creates knowledge by transcending academic disciplines.
5- Value Entrepreneurship - ASU uses its knowledge and encourages innovation.
6- Be Socially Embedded - ASU connects with communities through mutually beneficial partnerships.
7- Conduct Use-Inspired Research - ASU research has purpose and impact.
8- Engage Globally - ASU engages with people and issues locally, nationally and internationally.