PLANNING AND DESIGN OF STUDENT CENTRES

ABSTRACT

The student centre is an integral part of university life that provides services and amenities that campus members need in their daily life. Serving the important role as the campus’s community centre, a student centre basically represents how the university treats and regard its students. A student centre should not be confused for a building acting as a catchall for miscellaneous campus needs but should be understood as a community centre at its best, reflecting the range of programs, activities, services and accomplishments available on campus. Association of College Unions-International, an international body representing centres in the United States and other countries, best explains a student centre as a physical facility that makes possible an informal program that complements the university’s formal academic program. In Kenya, student centres in higher learning institutions haven’t been given much thought with priority given to maximizing classroom spaces. Majority of those that have a building termed as the student centre, are fitting activities not appropriate in such spaces or not recognising the essential activity core that translates to a good student centre.

The main aim of this study is to identify the planning principles and design elements specific to student centres, through review of relevant literature. Selected study variables are then adapted from the synthesis of guidelines developed after review of literature. Variables of this study are limited to location, accesses and entrances, spatial provisions, spatial organization, sustainability and interior design. Case study method is adopted in this research where three case studies located in Nairobi and Thika are selected. The case studies include; Strathmore University student centre, Kenyatta University Business and Student Services Centre and Mount Kenya student centre. Data collection was conducted through primary and secondary data including observation, questionnaires, interviews and field sketches.

Findings of research are then analysed against the variables developed from synthesis of established guidelines of literature review. In the case of location, findings point towards locating the student centre at a focal point for campus members to interact while accesses call for universal design integrating all users. Entrances considerations include maximizing on exterior transparency and use of towers and framed gateways to attract visitors while spatial provisions offered should be those that support student experiences. Spatial organization of student centres require open continuous spaces, interior visibilities and widened circulation paths providing additional functional opportunities. Sustainability

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considerations include passive strategies such as building orientation, natural lighting and natural ventilation. Interior design considerations include varied seating options, furniture selection that promotes socialization as well as privacy and quiet when needed, trending colours applied on replaceable features while keeping backgrounds neutral and use of light coloured surface finishes to promote reflection of light in the student centre.

Recommendations are drawn based on these research findings which include design considerations that can be adopted by institutions planning to come up with a student centres, awareness regarding the planning and design of student centres for architects, institutions, students and other relevant parties and future research recommendations on the subject study.

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