Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 31

In the February 1987 issue of
Talking Stick, Edward Dadez described
the difference between a dormitory
and a residence hall in terms of
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
The “dormitory philosophy” tends
to the most basic levels of human
needs – shelter and safety – while the
“residence hall philosophy” takes these
basic needs as a given and looks to
higher levels of need, which include a
sense of belonging, self-esteem, and
self-actualization. Those who adopt the
residence hall philosophy “perceive
their building to be more than just
dormitories where residents sleep,
study, and live passively. They perceive
them to be living-learning centers
where students are provided learning
experiences which assist in facilitating
their developmental awareness of self
and others.”

characterIstIcs
of strategIc
coMMoN space
In recent years, strategic common
space has become a hallmark of the
planning and design of a residence hall.
Experienced designers and housing
officials pay particular attention to
the issues of location, sequence,
type/activity, and size/quantity. How
these design elements converge in
the residence hall determines how
effectively they provide physical and
psychological support for the residents.

location:
see and Be seen

Part of the residence hall
philosophy is a focus on the strategic
use of common space, which differs
greatly from the incidental common
space in earlier dormitory design. In
most cases, the common space in these
older buildings consisted of a lounge,
usually located in a secluded or out-ofthe-way area, such as the basement or
at the end of a first-floor hallway. It was
a seldom used and often neglected asset
that, because of its seclusion, sustained
much damage, was territorialized by
neighboring residents, and lacked a
sense of security and comfort.

The lounge area is the most visible type
of common space. Today the concept
of “see and be seen” governs the
design of these spaces, which occupy
a central heavily traveled location.
Designers position common lounge
space as both a destination and a
circulatory path, compelling students
to encounter one another – to pass by
or through the action – as they travel
through the residence hall. Whether
the common spaces house scheduled
activities or impromptu gatherings,
situating these spaces in core locations
encourages student interactions and
chance meetings. The central location
concentrates social energy, which
fosters socialization.

In contrast, strategic common space
is the result of careful consideration
and calculation, planned in response
to students’ physical and psychological
needs. The contemporary lounge
focuses social energy, working in
conjunction with other spaces that
are tailored to class standing (firstyear through senior), shared interests
(scholastic and extracurricular), and the
need for variety (options for privacy and
socialization). Such strategic common
space encourages academic, personal,
and social development, thus boosting
overall student satisfaction. It also
supports an institution’s administrative
goals by attracting students, fostering
academic missions, and strengthening
cultural identities.

Centrally located common spaces
provide students with options for how
and when they interact with their
peers. To illustrate the psychological
significance of the “see and be seen”
concept, imagine two scenarios. Both
involve a student – let’s call her Mary
– who leaves her room, headed for
the common lounge to study. In the
first scenario, the lounge is located
at the end of the hall. Mary makes
some popcorn and heads down the
hall toward the lounge. She turns
the corner into the secluded lounge
and finds a couple in the midst of a
tense conversation. Awkwardness
follows. The couple sees Mary and
looks embarrassed; Mary feels like an
intruder and quickly leaves, hastening

back to her room, popcorn in hand.
In the second scenario, the lounge
is situated in a central location. Mary
grabs her popcorn and walks down the
hall, which passes through the lounge.
Here she encounters the arguing
couple, but Mary just keeps walking
as if headed another place entirely.
The central location of the common
lounge alters Mary’s and the couple’s
interactions, and all are spared the
awkwardness of an intrusion.
Students who are uncomfortable
about appearing intrusive may end
up avoiding the secluded lounge
altogether. Its location directly shapes
the use (and non-use) of the space, as
well as the ways this space is perceived
by students and administrators.
Students with rooms near the outof-the-way lounge often lay claim to
this common area, which results in
other students feeling unwelcome or
out of place. In addition, this space
can be easily vandalized because it
is shielded from view. Combined
with the risk of awkward encounters,
territorialization and disrepair keep
most students from using the space at
all. Then administrators who visit the
damaged, unused lounge may come
to the understandable conclusion that
common living areas are a waste of
funds. Yet the problem is the location,
not the common space itself.
To avoid the pitfalls associated
with secluded common living spaces,
designers and housing officials prefer
to centralize lounge areas. Rod Crafts,
dean of student life at Olin College in
Needham, Massachusetts, turned to the
core lounge concept when developing
East Hall. The core lounge organizes
the residence hall as a whole, and the
main entrance/common stair of each
floor leads to this central space, which
includes an entertainment center with a
variety of seating options. Study rooms,
a recycling center, and the resident
assistant’s room surround the lounge,
and the three residential wings extend
from this core space. Doors and glass
partitions separate the more public
lounge area from the semi-private and
private space of the wings beyond.
The design of East Hall’s core
July + August 2013

31



Talking Stick - July/August 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Talking Stick - July/August 2013

Talking Stick - July/August 2013
Contents
New Member Highlight
Vision
Just In
Your ACUHO-I
Transitions
Res Life
Business Operations
Facilities
Calendar
Common Space for the Common Good
Marketing the Residential Experience
Conversations
First Takes
Reporting Out
New Members
Snapshot
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Talking Stick - July/August 2013
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Cover2
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 1
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 2
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Contents
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - New Member Highlight
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 5
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Vision
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 7
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Just In
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 9
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 10
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 11
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 12
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Your ACUHO-I
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 14
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Transitions
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Res Life
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 17
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 18
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 21
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Business Operations
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 21
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 22
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 23
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Facilities
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 25
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 26
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Calendar
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Common Space for the Common Good
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 29
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 30
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 31
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 32
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 33
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 34
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 35
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Marketing the Residential Experience
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 37
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 38
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 39
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 40
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 41
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 42
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 43
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Conversations
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 45
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 46
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - First Takes
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Reporting Out
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 49
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 50
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 51
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 52
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 53
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - New Members
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - 55
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Snapshot
Talking Stick - July/August 2013 - Cover3
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