Category: readings

College Campuses as Holistic Learning Spaces

In their article “Recognizing College Landscapes as Learning Spaces,” Kathleen G. Scholl and Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi argue that today’s universities should provide students a holistic learning environment with both indoor and outdoor spaces so they can experience both community interaction and personal reflection. Using the evolution of college campuses, the benefits of human-nature interactions, and the characteristics of holistic learning spaces, Scholl and Gulwadi argue their point.

Laboratories were the first spaces on college campuses that were specifically designed for learning.

In order to fit the needs of a twenty-first century college student, universities are having to evolve. Scholl and Gulwadi argue that simply upgrading technology and adding on to buildings is not enough; instead, universities should create spaces that provide a holistic learning experience. Early American colleges were built to be self-sufficient. The goal was to build a space away from the city in order to limit distractions. College campuses consisted of “closely clustered buildings designed to protect students from the lures of the outside world” (Scholl and Gulwadi). With the addition of laboratories and observatory spaces in 1862, physical campuses were beginning to add to student learning. The previous “closely clustered” buildings were being replaced by open spaces and zones for specific disciplines. For the first time, college campuses were being looked at as learning spaces, not just groups of buildings set up outside of the city. Scholl and Gulwadi state that “older campus plans emphasized disciplinary boundaries and newer campus designs are more amorphous and integrative.” This transition shows the evolution of college campuses and their response to changes in education.

Outdoor spaces, like this one at the University of South Carolina's campus, provide students with the opportunity to experience human-nature interactions.

Outdoor spaces, like this one on the University of South Carolina’s campus, provide students with the opportunity to experience human-nature interactions.

Using the Attention Restoration Theory, Scholl and Gulwadi argue that certain campus design features “help mentally fatigued individuals.” The Attention Restoration Theory (ART) states that exposure and interaction with nature “has specific recovery effects on the human attentional system” (Scholl and Gulwadi). A university’s learning environment is more than just classrooms; Scholl and Gulwadi believe that the learning environment also includes the open space found outside. These open spaces add to the holistic learning landscape by providing students a place to interact with nature. Spending time in nature is beneficial for restoring cognitive functions such as concentration and direct attention. Scholl and Gulwadi urge universities to find a balance between indoor and outdoor learning spaces so their students can experience human-nature interaction.

An example of a traditional university classroom.

While human-nature interaction is necessary for the productivity of all students, outdoor class instruction is not suited for all academic subjects. Scholl and Gulwadi argue that a holistic university landscape, combining both human-nature interaction and the traditional indoor classroom, is the solution. Traditional classrooms “provide ample opportunities for structured learning experiences that draw upon students’ direct attention” (Scholl and Gulwadi). The typical classroom setting, while necessary, requires all of a student’s direct attention. Human-nature interactions allow students to restore this direct attention, equipping them with the cognitive functions needed to productively work in a classroom. In order for college campuses to be as efficient for student productivity as possible, Scholl and Gulwadi believe a holistic landscape is necessary. This landscape includes the open space outside and the traditional indoor classroom.


Works Cited

Scholl, Kathleen G., and Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi. “Recognizing College Landscapes as Learning Spaces.” The University of North Carolina Greensboro, 2015.

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The Gender Revolution and Its Affect on Interior Design

In her article “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society,” Suzanne Tick argues that interior designers and architects should set out to create non-gendered spaces that will better accommodate the evolution of traditional gender roles and identities that is happening in today’s society. Tick uses the gender shift in today’s workplace, the ever-evolving definitions of “male” and “female,” and the nationwide focus on bathrooms to support her claim that interior designers need to embrace the gender revolution and work with it.

As traditional gender roles are evolving to fit the advances of today’s society, designers should use their spaces to promote change.While a new wave of feminism has begun to break down hierarchy in the workplace, Tick argues that today’s office landscape “is still deeply rooted in Modernism.” Modernism is design style shaped solely by male necessity. Even in today’s society, as women become more prominent in positions of power, the design of most workplaces specifically cater the needs of men. Tick believes that it is time for interior designers to change this. Instead of creating spaces that only accommodate one group of people or a specific gender, designers should join the gender revolution and begin to incorporate gender sensitivity into their work.

Annemiek van der Beek’s Primal Skin is a makeup collection is designed for men.

Annemiek van der Beek’s Primal Skin is a makeup collection is designed for men.

As androgyny becomes today’s norm, the traditional definitions of masculine are feminine are changing. The fashion and beauty industries are the first to fully accept this phenomenon. Fashion designers such as Alexander Wang have even begun to create gender neutral pieces, and makeup lines like Annemiek van der Beek’s Primal Skin are being designed to attract male buyers. Tick states that the processes of architecture and interior design are much slower than those of fashion and beauty. If designers do not take it upon themselves, Tick believes that the opportunity to create accommodating spaces for all, will be missed. What was assumed about gender is changing as individuals begin to identify themselves regardless of their assigned sex at birth. Students have started not specifying their gender on forms and others are asking to have their gender unspecified. Schools are even accepting this, which is huge. Tick argues that designers cannot fall behind the gender revolution, and instead should embrace it by creating spaces that promote acceptance and change.

As gender neutrality becomes a societal norm, signs like this one are being used instead of the "typical" restroom signs we are accustomed to.

As gender neutrality becomes a societal norm, signs like this one are being used instead of the “typical” restroom signs we are accustomed to.

Due to the evolution of gender identity, bathrooms have become the focus of change, and have created controversy across the country. In order to accommodate all individuals, large corporations like Google have created gender neutral and unisex bathrooms in their offices. This movement is providing individuals the choice to not choose a gender while at work. Tick realizes that bathrooms, while “only part of the puzzle in addressing gender inclusivity in the office,” are spaces that are sensitive to personal issues. Tick believes that designers can help address these new and sometimes uncomfortable situations revolving space. Gender neutral bathrooms are vastly different from the gendered restrooms we are all used to, but making everyone feel accommodated is what is important. Tick pushes designers to think of ways to address the bathroom situation by stressing the importance of creating an office landscape where everyone is safe and comfortable. Offices are places “where everyone is expected to collaborate closely,” so they need to be accommodating to all. Instead of waiting for gender neutrality to become a regulation, Tick pushes interior designers and architects to get ahead of the movement and to begin creating gender neutral spaces today.

Works Cited

Tick, Suzanne. “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society.” Metropolis Magazine, 

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Social Action Begins With a Question

In chapter six of her book Distant Publics: Development Rhetoric and the Subject of Crisis, Jenny Rice explains why inquiry is instrumental in bringing about social action. Rice argues that we are all members of a complex network and in order to fully understand this system we must learn to ask questions.

Protestors at an Arco gas station (a subsidiary of PB) in Los Angeles, California in June 2010.

Protestors at an Arco gas station (a subsidiary of PB) in Los Angeles, California in June 2010. (Click image for article link)

Rice uses the nation’s reaction to the BP oil spill as an example to show how ignorant we all are to the complexity of the networks around us. The national boycott of BP oil did nothing to combat the petroleum mining problem. Instead, it allowed participants to feel like they were doing something, even though the little they were doing was actually contributing to the problem. Rice argues that choosing to buy gas from another company did not stop the overall problem because it ignored the invisible connections among a much larger network. The BP oil spill was one occurrence in a much larger system. Boycotting was an easy way to address the problem without doing much work, but did nothing to actually stop the problem of petroleum mining and drilling. Rice uses this example to prove how complex networks work and how little we, as public subjects, know about these complex systems.

Rice argues that in order to fully understand these networks, we must first be educated in “patterns of public talk” (165). Understanding public talk begins in the classroom. Rice believes that educators have the ability to shape public subjects, and argues that the production of these well rounded civilians begins with rhetorical pedagogies. Using a conversation between two students Rice explains why writing only about what you are passionate about is not for the best. If you are only required to write about what you enjoy, you are allowing yourself to be closed off from all new thoughts, ideas, and passions. Instead of only writing about things you enjoy, Rice urges students and educators alike to use rhetorical pedagogies to find new interests. Rice states “Rhetorical pedagogies have a deep commitment to helping students make connections with public issues, including helping them to understand how those issues affect them” (165). In order for social action to occur so must inquiry, and in order for inquiry to occur so must learning. When we learn new things, we open ourselves up to a variety of new questions, and from these questions come new concerns and passions. Rice argues that without the ability to learn new things, new questions could never be formulated, and social action would never occur.

Inquiry is necessary for social action. Without the ability to learn new things, we would be unable to ask questions and to raise new concerns. Without these concerns, social action could not take place. Things happen when passionate people work together to make things happen. Rice believes that rhetorical pedagogies are the key to producing public subjects. Her definition of a public subject is an individual who understands the complex networks that make up who we are and where we live. Rice argues that the key to understanding these complex systems is learning how to ask questions and seeking out solutions. Rice uses the BP oil spill, an overheard conversation, and importance of rhetorical pedagogies to argue that inquiry is instrumental in bringing about social action.

Works Cited

Pizzello, Chris. Protestors at an ARCO Gas Station in Los Angeles. 2011, The New York Times,

Rice, Jenny. Distant Publics: Development Rhetoric and the Subject of Crisis. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012. pp. 163-196.

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Architectural Exclusion and the Effects of the Built Environment

In part one of her article “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical Design of the Built Environment,” Sarah Schindler argues that the built environment dictates behavior by regulating the daily lives of individuals in a given community. Schindler provides everyday examples of architectural exclusion and describes the harmful effects of these design decisions.

Benches like this one are divided to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them.

Benches like this one are divided to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them.

Common architectural features can be used to exclude a specific individual or even a group of people. Features such as bridges, walls, benches, and even sidewalks often have a hidden meaning. A divided park bench is an example of this concept. Schindler argues that many people look at a divided bench and assume the design is an aesthetic choice; but in reality, the dividers are a preventive measure setup to stop homeless people from lying down to sleep.

While exclusion due to the built environment is common, many consequences of these architectural choices are overlooked. These features are so built into the community that citizens walk by them everyday without fully understanding their consequences. Schindler states that while architectural exclusion may be overlooked, it is a real and present form of regulation in our communities. She argues that architects have the power to restrict behavior by preventing an individual from traveling to a certain area of town, or by making it difficult to maneuver between locations. The built environment makes it possible for low bridges, walls, and the placement of transit stops to restrict the behavior of a community. Schindler argues that decisions made by architects and urban planners, “create architectural constraints: features of the built environment that function to control human behavior or hinder access” (1948). These decisions are instrumental in bringing about architectural exclusion.

In June 2016 a huge debate took place among residents of a Northwest DC neighborhood called Hawthorne. Some residents believed the neighborhood would be safer with sidewalks, and some believed sidewalks would take from their community.

In June 2016 a huge debate took place among residents of a Northwest DC neighborhood called Hawthorne. Some residents believed the neighborhood would be safer with sidewalks, and some believed sidewalks would take from their community.

While architects acknowledge that their decisions can be beneficial for some and crippling for others, nothing is done to change this and legal action is never taken. Schindler states that architects have to power to create spaces that exclude individuals based on race, gender, and socioeconomic standing. Although architects and city planners admit that they are cable of this, legal scholars are just becoming aware of these concepts. Schindler emphasizes that architectural regulation should be “subject to scrutiny that is equal to that afforded to other methods of exclusion by law” (1953). She proposes a question: why are so many other forms of exclusion addressed by lawmakers while architectural exclusion is ignored? Schindler argues that architectural exclusion should be viewed as a civil rights issue because it has the ability to discriminate against an entire race, gender, or socioeconomic class. While regulation caused by the built environment is less known by the legal system and the general public, Schindler urges lawmakers and judges to give these issues their consideration.

Schindler uses part one of her article to argue the exclusionary effects of architecture and the built environment. The behavior of an individual can be regulated by the architectural features of their environment. The location of transit stops, the presence of sidewalks, low bridges, and wall are examples of architectural features that can be used regulate and dictate behavior. Schindler urges legal scholars to take notice of these concepts because she believes they are civil rights issues that need to be addressed.

Works Cited

Schindler, Sarah. “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical Design of the Built Environment.” The Yale Journal, vol. 125, no. 6, April 2015, pp. 1934-1953.

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