Where campus meets corporate design

A building is much more than its appearance; it’s how the user will behave inside of it that determines its adaptability.

October 26, 2017 |
LPA Blog

Today’s dynamic world requires places to serve multiple purposes. Your local coffee shop can be your office for the day. A trip to the grocery store can turn into getting an eye exam. A building is much more than its appearance; it’s how the user will behave inside of it that determines its adaptability. So how do you include elements in design that meet the needs of multiple users? 

The new Extended University Commons at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) is a three-story, 67,000-square-foot building that houses both academic and office space. The building, completed in September 2016, includes instructional spaces for the Tseng College of Extended Learning to accommodate their rapidly growing programs, and incorporates workspace for the College’s administration and services.

Discovering ways to bridge the gap for these two users was the driving force behind the design process and ultimately, delivering a place that serves multiple purposes.



Choose the Right Location

The workspace for the college’s support teams were previously located on the second floor of the bookstore with instructional spaces scattered across underutilized instructional spaces. The design team studied different sites on the campus to determine the ideal location to be on the perimeter of the campus at its West Gateway. The working professional students attending the university and the working professionals of the university would both benefit from this location for its proximity to the campus mass transportation hub and the parking structure.


Incorporate Collaboration Zones

The approach to designing the learning and workplace environment were both created with the intention for collaboration. Since the support departments were previously working in separate areas, the design team wanted to bring the groups together to engage. Not only would employees now have their own identity inside the building, there were several spaces for flexible informal meeting spaces. The intent was for them to not only work better together, but to create a culture inside their work environment.

Within the academic spaces, the team explored passive versus active learning concepts to discover how students can explore and engage collaboratively. The classrooms are designed to accommodate technology with media and flexible and mobile furnishings for formal and informal meetings. In addition to classroom spaces, we included a studio space to record curriculum so instructors can share digitally to assist with the distance learning style of the program.



Create an Infused Identity

The point of visual connection for both students and working professionals is the three-story-high lobby. The visual connection directly influences workplace behavior and student interaction in the surrounding gathering and social spaces. This concept was informed by our experience in workplace settings to encourage engagement. With the users being extended learners and working professionals, the lobby displays a corporate design style to influence the environment.

Additionally, the courtyard creates a dynamic setting for students to engage, but more importantly, this setting is easily adaptable for the corporate setting as well for spaces where employees can take a break, have lunch or engage in an informal meeting.

The goal of CSUN’s Extended University Commons building was to have a unique identity on the higher educationcampus with the vision of bringing together a workplace environment with academic spaces while communicating quality to its users and visitors. Through evaluation and research, our integrated design team created a building solution that expresses the needs for the user and identifies as an upscale office space on an academic campus.


Glenn Carels is Principal and Chief Design Officer at LPA. Glenn has devoted his career to making higher education more effective through good design. He is responsible for the brand and integrated design development at the firm, focusing on enhancing LPA’s unique informed design approach.

LPA Blog
LPA Blog | LPA

Founded in 1965, LPA has more than 380 employees with offices in Irvine, Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose, California, along with San Antonio and Dallas. The firm provides services in architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, engineering and graphics. With a proven commitment to integrated sustainable design, LPA designs facilities that span from K-12 schools, colleges and universities and corporate, healthcare and civic establishments. More than 700 major design awards attest to LPA’s commitment to design excellence. For more information, visit http://www.lpainc.com.

Related Blogs

December 06, 2017 | K-12 Schools | LPACraig Drone

A step-by-step process finds better answers, saves money, and produces measurable results.

A hallway and study space at the Samueli Academy
September 08, 2017 | K-12 Schools | LPALowell Tacker

Flexible, modern classrooms should be viewed as a key element of a sound financial strategy, producing a so...

An active outdoor space for students
August 18, 2017 | K-12 Schools | LPAWinston Bao

Active design can be incorporated into any facility or campus with a few simple steps.

July 05, 2017 | Office Building Design | LPAKaren Thomas

Whether for a team of 20 or 200, if today’s professionals are not currently working in an open office envir...

May 22, 2017 | Education Facility | LPAAndrew Wickham

Recently, in educational design, we have seen a trend toward more flexible learning spaces.

April 05, 2017 | Sports and Recreational Facilities | LPAArash Izadi

With the completion of the athletic facility upgrade—dubbed the Arden Project—students will have access to...

February 24, 2017 | Healthcare Facilities | LPAMarcus Thorne

Higher costs and low occupancy rates have forced healthcare facilities to rethink how healthcare is deliver...

January 10, 2017 | Education Facility | LPATravis Rice

Interior and exterior spaces harmoniously provide a campus experience to challenge children in the classroo...

December 07, 2016 | Education Facility | LPAKate Mraw

Learning is a lot like working; it varies daily, ranges from individual to collaborative, formal to informa...

October 26, 2016 | Office Building Design | LPAKaren Thomas, CID / LEED AP BD+C

With a continued focus on providing more with less, companies across all industries are continually driving...

Overlay Init