Construction underway for the UO Columbia 150 Lecture Hall

Until this year, Columbia 150 was the largest lecture hall on the University of Oregon Campus. The 500-capacity room was built in 1960 as an extension of the science building now known as Pacific Hall. With the only major upgrade to the space in 1986, the lecture hall was in great need of a renovation/remodel. The recently completed 500+ seat lecture hall at Straub Hall provided an opportunity for the 5,500 sf Columbia 150 Lecture Hall Renovation project to proceed without an impact to the University of Oregon’s large lecture class schedule.

With a targeted capacity of 450+ seats, the $2.2M renovation will include reorganization of internal circulation, improved accessibility, and new furnishings, finishes, lighting and audio visual systems. The main use will be for the sciences, but the space will be available for all disciplines and for evening events. 

In developing the organization and layout of the lecture hall, the following goals became the primary generators of the project’s design:

• 450 Students: With a large number of students, circulation space, seating areas and lobby/waiting area should be modified for quick and efficient exit and entry during class changes.

Enhancements: The layout of the lecture hall is substantially reorganized, and will provide multiple routes of circulation to disperse traffic within the space. Addition of an exterior ramp and renovation of the lower level will provide an additional route for entry and exit.

• Active Learning Space: Active-learning environments engage students through activities or discussions rather than having them listen passively to a lecture. Provide a layout and classroom infrastructure to help facilitate collaboration and provide the ability to create active, hands-on learning opportunities for students, even in large lecture halls.

Enhancements: The new layout provides multiple circulation routes and will facilitate easy team teaching access to students throughout the space. Installation of whiteboards around the perimeter of the room will provide areas for group discussion, and upgraded technology will allow greater media options to support different teaching modes.

• Universal Access: Design improvements in ways that ensure welcoming, graceful access for all members of its community.

Enhancements: Accessible spaces are increases and dispersed more equitably in the space, while removal of interior ramps at the main cross-aisle will provide clearer paths of travel. A new exterior ramp will make the teaching platform and lower level of seats accessible for the first time.  

• Places to Wait: Provide areas outside of lecture halls and classrooms with benches and seating for continuing discussions between faculty and students, but not so much as to attract large groups that might make excessive noise.

Enhancements: Minor renovations of the two lobbies will rearrange seating areas along the edges, and keep them out of the main circulation paths.

An exciting academic element stimulated by this project is a simultaneous lecture hall study currently being done by students in the Architecture department. The research aims to determine if and how the physical design of a space influences the effectiveness of a large learning environment. Students observed classes in Columbia 150 during Winter term and similar classes in the new Straub Hall lecture hall during Spring Term. They evaluated factors such as attendance, attentiveness, teaching modes and interaction in the spaces. The class is planning to re-observe these same classes in Columbia 150 during the next Winter term after the remodel is completed to determine if there are correlations between these factors and the physical space. 

Construction will begin June 2015 and the project will completed in November 2015, with the space ready for Winter Term 2016. 

Gregory Brokaw