Text description provided by the architects. The Westside I (WS I) building was designed as a pilot project to implement Central New Mexico Community College’s (CNM) recent paradigm shift to a more interactive and social approach to education. During programming, Gould Evans collaborated with a group of younger faculty in order to imagine alternative ways that academic services and interaction with faculty could be integrated into the busy daily routines of students. The two programmatic strategies that emerged out of this collaboration – the Learning Commons Loop and the Faculty Office Pod – put the student educational experience front and center.
The largest post-secondary institution in New Mexico, CNM features seven campuses distributed throughout the Albuquerque metropolitan area. The school strives to be a nimble institution that quickly responds to growth of the city, changing industry demands and evolution in educational practices. Along these lines, the CNM Westside Campus opened in June 2003 on the edge of Albuquerque anticipating the city’s growth west of the Rio Grande River.
By making it the primary circulation space and looping it around the entire floor plate, the Learning Commons Loop becomes the main organizer of the building and immerses students in the breath of available academic resources. It offers spaces for tutoring, computer usage, social gathering and study. The rich varieties of enclosed and open breakout spaces are located directly across from classrooms, fostering a symbiosis of teaching and discussion. As one progresses around the Loop, he or she is engaged by an ever-changing combination of learning spaces, enticing study lounges and expansive views to the vast New Mexico landscape. Several important moments along the Loop such as the central information desk, café and art display cases are distinguished through the combination of acrylic “CNM yellow” panels and Cali Bamboo Marbelized Fossilized Plywood, a rapidly renewable resource.
The Faculty Office Pod rethinks the standard ”cubicle farm” office model to better align with the daily routine of students and to reduce a student’s intimidation when approaching a faculty member for help. Each office “pod” houses 10-12 faculty members of different disciplines in an open floor plan where they can each be exposed to the work happening in other fields of study. Distributed along the Learning Commons Loop and near class and study rooms, the Faculty Pods encourage students and faculty to cross paths daily in an impromptu way.
The courtyard form of WS I and its siting between the existing two campus buildings reinforce its role as a new physical and social campus hub, provide protection against the mesa’s harsh winds, and address future westward growth. Masonry, textured concrete, glass, and a striking composition of Morin VB-34 corrugated and perforated stainless steel panels respond to the high desert climate in a material palette as distinctive as its interior programming. The building meets the 2030 Challenge for energy performance with an intensive day lighting strategy as well as the installation of geothermal wells and solar panels.