Our View: Good for the eye great for ASU
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 16:03
Education does not take place in a vacuum; it relies heavily on physical context. University buildings that can invoke emotions carry enormous weight in education. This influence from the perceived beauty can be extremely positive or negative for teachers and students.
Just for a moment, imagine the perfect university. There is a slight breeze as the sun peers through the tops of ancient trees, lining the winding pathways. The worn steps groan as students climb into the elegant buildings that house the wealth of academia. There is an air of expertise, conviction and creativeness in the musty halls on the way to class.
However great this may sound, when students look around our campus, this is not exactly what they see. While campuses have no control of breeze or the growth rate of their trees, they do have the ability to create their teaching environment.
Students expect buildings to set the tone for their educational experience. Just as the capital building would create their space, with majestic art or history, schools create their unique learning environment.
Where religious buildings attempt to establish the division between the sacred and the profane, universities seek to create a protected space for the sharing of ideas.
To achieve these goals, buildings are designed and built differently. Universities’ aesthetic appeal surrounds students with prestige, humility and respect.
When institutions fail to achieve these goals, they create cognitive dissonance for their constituents. Although students set beliefs about what education looks like, their views, ideas or opinions are not represented by reality.
Humans have a desire to remove discomfort caused by dissonance and try to create a state of equilibrium. If students are unable to change their expectations of a university, they may have to find a different one.
Sadly, beautiful buildings cost more money upfront compared to buildings that are less pleasing to the eye. There are plenty of arguments however, to make aesthetic appeal a main tenant for campus construction.
Studies done over the past three decades on access to natural light, age of buildings, colors in classrooms and building design have consistently shown that students’ educational experience is partly based upon universities’ physical attributes.
There are certainly a number of corner classrooms around our campus that suffer from this architectural dilemma. These classrooms and buildings were designed for space efficiency, not for their grandeur.
The cost upfront may be large, but picturesque schools pay large dividends in the long run. Besides their ability to attract students, picturesque schools benefit the education of students.
As the liberal arts building is fashioned together, let’s hope it is also being figuratively fashioned as well. Potentially one day when students imagine their perfect university, they can imagine Arkansas State.
“Our View” is written by the editorial staff. The opinions are not necessarily reflective of the student body, faculty or administration of Arkansas State University.