It’s no secret that a thoughtfully designed university campus can go a long way to motivate students to reach their greatest potential. The intent of TurnerBatson Architects’ design of Highlands College — a Christian higher education institution in Birmingham – is to inspire its students who are training for the ministry.
The design of Highlands College has been selected for publication in Endeavor Business Media’s American School & University® 2022 Architectural Portfolio. It was featured in the November/December 2022 edition of the magazine and online at SchoolDesigns.com. An annual competition honoring education design excellence, the Architectural Portfolio spotlights projects representing today’s most effective learning environments.
Highlands College purchased a 62-plus-acre former HealthSouth headquarters in Birmingham’s Grandview neighborhood. The three-story building was renovated to include learning studios, ministry training labs, dining facilities, fitness and recreation areas and a multipurpose auditorium. In addition, it is now equipped with the latest in audio-visual presentation, video editing and music production.
“Our challenge and goal were to transform a building that was previously inwardly focused to a building that looks outward,” explains TurnerBatson President and Principal Architect Dave Reese. “The design allows an opportunity for natural light to be visible from nearly all areas of the building. A new three-story atrium was cut into the existing structure to unify the space and allow for connectivity between classrooms, faculty, and administrative areas. The result is a light-filled building that cultivates community and connection with the occupants.”
The project includes a new glass curtainwall addition and a comprehensive renovation of a three-story facility to create a collaborative and relational place for students and faculty. Each floor features an open, light-filled circulation space connecting learning studios, practicum spaces and faculty offices.
The design intent for these “living laboratories” is to provide a sustainable, engaging facility that connects the users with their environment and with one another. This includes large expanses of glass to “share God’s light” and provide unobstructed views of the outdoors, and natural materials such as wood and concrete to create a tactile, grounded and organic foundation. The use of strong graphics, vivid colors, and patterns in textiles and furniture invigorate areas and reinforce the Highlands College brand, creating a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere.
A jury of American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on Architecture for Education members and education administrators evaluated submissions from architectural firms, schools, and universities across the country. Ninety-four projects were chosen for publication in American School & University magazine, which focuses on educational facilities, purchasing and business administration and reaches 57,000 facility planners, school and university administrators and architects.
The competition is in its 40th year. Jurors evaluating the designed looked at several areas, including a seamless integration of indoor and outdoor space, sustainability, budget-consciousness, health and safety, and quality of construction. Jurors also considered design elements that are perhaps not as quantifiable but equally important. These include characteristics that make a building welcoming, collaborative, inspirational and joyful.
*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of TurnerBatson Architects