by Peter Kerwin
The first step in an ambitious master plan that will transform library buildings across the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus is coming to life at the Wisconsin School of Business, where three floors in Grainger Hall that currently house a library, a computer lab, the Business Learning Center, and Copy Center will become a bright, open, vertically connected educational space called the Learning Commons.
Construction on the estimated $11 million project, encompassing just over 33,000 square feet, started this week and is due to be completed in Spring 2018.
The exciting new learning space will link Grainger Hall’s west and east wings, while giving students an array of different learning environments. With a focus on using natural light and glass to open up the space, the Learning Commons will become the heart of the building, featuring a new state-of-the-art Finance and Analytics Lab, a re-imagined computer lab and business library with flexible spaces, and a Business Learning Center housing five active learning classrooms with wireless displays for collaborative opportunities.
“The Learning Commons project builds on our investment in active learning spaces that incorporate technology and design to foster collaborative environments and support innovative teaching methods,” says Suzanne Dove, assistant dean for academic innovations at the Wisconsin School of Business.
“The Wisconsin School of Business is committed to educational innovation, and with the Learning Commons, we will create a central locale with flexible and customizable learning spaces that will enable students and faculty to connect, engage, and exchange ideas more than ever before.”
The Learning Commons plans include:
- On the first floor, a new state-of-the-art Finance and Analytics Lab will feature cutting-edge technology, including Bloomberg Terminal, a software system that allows real-time access to market data.
- The existing undergraduate computer lab on the first floor will be transformed from rows of front-facing desks into an open collaborative area where students can engage with other students in small or large groups.
- The second and third floors will be home to the WSB Business Library and the Business Learning Center, featuring five active learning classrooms with two dozen seats each, including two rooms that can open into larger capacities of 50 each.
- The upper floors also will include ten breakout rooms, areas for collaborative gathering, and casual seating.
- On the third floor, rows of long, linear tables will be replaced with more comfortable seating options for individual quiet study.
“The careful design and implementation of a service model that provides better library services in modern, transformed learning spaces can only occur in close collaboration with academic departments,” says Ed Van Gemert, vice provost for libraries and university librarian at UW–Madison. “From the start of this project, the Libraries and the School of Business partnered on the service model design, as well as the renovation of spaces. We anticipate this project’s outcome will serve as a foundation for the design of modern and transformed libraries on this campus.”
The Madison-based design firm of Potter Lawson was selected for the project. The firm has designed a number of buildings on the UW–Madison campus, including Gordon Commons, University Square, the Genetics Biotech Building, and Rennebohm Hall. Potter Lawson has brought on the design firm of MSR as a consultant and partner on the project. MSR has designed more than 200 libraries around the world and the two firms previously collaborated on the Madison Public Library. Construction work is being undertaken by Miron Construction, headquartered in Neenah, Wisconsin.
The Learning Commons project is privately funded by alumni and friends of the Wisconsin School of Business in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Foundation. Ricky and Mara Sandler made a generous lead gift to the project. The Sandlers both graduated from UW–Madison in 1991. The project also includes an on-going campaign to establish a $6 million endowment to maintain the space going forward.
Funding for the Learning Commons was approved by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System in February, 2017 as a Gift and Grant construction project.