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Las Positas College: Creating a Landscape for Learning

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The campus quad (still referred to as a quadrangle, no matter the shape) is essential to the college campus experience. It is a unifying element that defines an institution’s identity. It is the center of campus outdoor life. A well-designed quad may be even more important to our community colleges than to 4-year institutions.

Colleges are not just places to develop students’ academic skills, but also their leadership, problem solving, communication, and collaboration abilities. These talents are advanced through student life; where students engage with their campus community outside of the classroom. Community Colleges have a reputation for being commuter campuses where students don’t linger before or after class. That is becoming less true as community college students are getting younger (Orbesen, 2013) and want to socialize and participate in campus activities.

Forty-nine percent of students attending four-year university programs in the United States had previously been enrolled in a two-year college program (CCRC, 2015). Las Positas College in Livermore, California serves nearly 8,500 students daily from around the tri-valley area. Students are in pursuit of one of the school’s 24 associate degrees, 17 transfer associate degree programs, or 44 certificate programs. Situated in a rural area, the campus is accessible by BART and Interstate 580. Las Positas Community College wanted to encourage student life when they asked Gates + Associates to redesign the campus quad.

Redesign of the Campus Central Green

Through outreach with students, faculty, and maintenance staff, Gates + Associates identified particular needs that we addressed in the renovation:

  • Outdoor classrooms
  • Recreation areas
  • Intimate social spaces
  • Large gathering areas
  • Universal access
  • Reduced maintenance

The plan reduced the amount of lawn to decrease maintenance, make the campus more sustainable, and to add landscape interest in all seasons. Courtyards, walkways, and focal points were used to create a predictable circulation pattern that makes wayfinding intuitive. Users enjoy a more comfortable stay with the addition of shade trees, various kinds of seating, and additional lighting. The improvements unify the campus and emphasize it’s unique architecture.

As students continue to take advantage of the value, academic flexibility, school-life balance, and personalized attention offered by community colleges, we have a responsibility to design spaces that support their academic achievement as well as their connection to student life.

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