Duke University Active Learning Environment


Location: Durham, North Carolina
Project Size: 3,300 SF

Located along the periphery of the Duke University medical center, the Trent Hall classroom renovation represents a pedagogical shift in the way the university teaches its students. The days of solely lecture style teaching are fading, in favor of a more active and flexible learning environment. Courses taught in active learning environments utilize the adaptability of the classroom space to transition between class-wide and small group learning. In addition, they leverage all walls and surfaces in a classroom for collaborative exploration, dialogue and discourse.

Built in 1953, Trent Hall was initially designed as a dormitory and dining hall. It has since been converted into classrooms and office spaces. The space formerly occupied by the building’s kitchen resulted in a large [almost] column free space, which lends itself perfectly to the adaptability of active learning environments. The new design for this classroom seats up to 105 students in a variety of seating arrangements for different teaching styles. Utilizing movable partitions allows the room to be reconfigured to fit the specific needs of each class or session. Wood clouds cleanly organize lights and diffusers, reinforce the multiple teaching walls, and improve room acoustics, all while allowing the rest of the room’s structure to be exposed to increase the height of the space. The learning experience extends beyond the four walls of the classroom, into a pre-function lobby that acts as antechamber for additional breakout study areas. The necessary addition of an egress stair presented the opportunity to create a visually compelling entrance to the building for students coming from the east side of the campus.