The University of Wisconsin-Madison needed help. It was in the midst of designing its state-of-the-art building for the School of Nursing. It has a simulation lab, lifelike high-fidelity manikins, and a complete apartment suite that functions as a realistic setting for home-visit simulations. "Every room and every career path for nursing, they've built right here in this building," said Ann Hayes, University of Wisconsin-Madison interior designer, part of the Signe Skott Cooper Hall team.
The School of Nursing wanted custom tables for its active learning classrooms. These state-of-the-art educational spaces are designed specifically for collaboration, and the furniture had to support that goal.
The ask was detailed: tables needed to house technology to accommodate laptops and microphones, and provide well-ventilated internal spaces for AV equipment. Tables needed to seat small groups but still function collectively for more traditional lecture-style learning. And, an added twist: the room doubled as an emergency site for campus police. The tables needed to be easily collapsed and whisked away at any moment.
"One of the challenges we had with the first prototype was the location of the legs," Ann explained. "We ended up working with SurfaceWorks to move the legs inward so that someone isn't straddling [one of them]."
Leg placement was one of many design challenges to solve. The end result speaks for itself: a three-sectioned round with a tech hub in the center, and a lockable, ventilated cabinet underneath that is easily swappable with future, upgraded technology. And, each room comes with an instructor station that enables easy screen sharing. At the press of a button on the tech hub, students project content to the room.
Collaboration is at the heart of this room and was pivotal in the design process, too. "We worked as a team with the manufacturer, vendor rep, product rep, manufacturer's rep, the UW design team, and IT department," said Ann. "We integrated together all of our different expertise to meet the needs."
At the time, there wasn't anything on the market that matched the specs. Now, other schools and colleges visit UW-Madison to learn about this classroom and build similar tables to suit their needs.
"There weren't any unforeseens that erupted in this process. It went the way we needed it go, and SurfaceWorks delivered what they promised. It was just pretty painless," said Ann.
We couldn't agree more, Ann.