The KCU Academic Center renovation transformed an under-utilized, 1500 seat auditorium into a state-of-the-art learning facility and hub for student activity. The design team suggested the innovative concept of stacking two lecture halls within the footprint of the existing auditorium. this resourceful solution saved nearly a third of what it might otherwise cost to build a new lecture facility.

The unique geometry of the existing space posed creative constraints on design solutions. As a leading medical campus striving to attract and retain talent, University leadership wanted to create a significant departure from previous campus architecture. Cleverly nick-named the “heart transplant”, the design team looked to connect biological forms to the architectural articulation of the new spaces.

The flowing, curved auditorium helped achieve excellent acoustics within the lower lecture hall while serving as the primary expression of the “heart”. The design team worked in partnership with acoustic plaster and framing specialists to develop the curvilinear elements within the constraints of the existing space and products.

KCU leadership challenged the design team to reuse as much of the existing wood paneling and existing finishes as possible. Working with a local craftsman, the wood was repurposed and used as a wall finish within the upper lecture hall and student gathering spaces. Wood panels augmented the acoustic quality of the upper lecture hall creating an environment for 400+ students to learn on a daily basis.

Within the Academic Center, lecture halls were designed with two rows per tier to give front-row students the flexibility to turn around and collaborate with the row behind them. Two-way distance learning capabilities are incorporated into learning spaces. KCU saw the renovation as an opportunity to expand on collaborative group learning and study space for students. Windows were added to previously back-of-house auditorium spaces and they were converted into flexible student break-out and study rooms.

University leadership seized the opportunity during the renovation to explore progressive furniture and finish options. Playful, welcoming lounge furniture was selected in favor of traditional institutional furniture to encourage collaboration and exchange of ideas before or after lectures. The design team and University leadership remained conscientious throughout the design process to bring a hospitality-like and professional quality to the space. Bright colors helped the space transform from formal to youthful and energetic, only further strengthening the University’s brand identity. The Academic Center’s transformation from a seldom-used facility to a hub of active learning and collaboration has given KCU students and faculty a truly functional, beautiful new home.