Project Summary

The Design building at California State University, Long Beach is a retrofitted garage from the late 1950’s. This building is home to a variety of individuals with different backgrounds, all with one common interest… passion for design.
Unfortunately this building, a cold and barren environment falls short in meeting the needs of this warm passionate crowd. The goal of this project is to create an environment of collaboration and interaction that creates a sparks of creativity within students.

Thesis Statement

The advancement of technology and the numerous means of communication, connectivity and acquiring knowledge has affected the educational environment. Classrooms and face to face teaching system have become part of the learning process rather than being the main part of one’s education. In this day and age, students still learn the basics and the core of their knowledge in classrooms, but it is their interaction with others, collaboration in group settings and access to the latest information and equipments that enables them to flourish. Providing such an environment today becomes  an element that creates the spark of creativity in students.

Project Goals

In this project, the current building and its layout will be master planned with the exception of the mechanical rooms. The main goal of this project is to introduce the necessary elements into program without diminishing or altering too much of the department’s existing program. The necessary elements are as follows:

• Introduce a new entrance that creates a contrast with the existing facade, making the entry condition visible and way-finding simple.

• Create multi-purpose exterior areas that could serve as external classrooms, supporting areas for an event or a refuge for the students to clear their minds.

• Create a common, multi-purpose space that allows the students to stay connected and to interact and collaborate.

• Design a “Flex” area with flexible / modular furniture that allows students to configure the space to meet their immediate working space needs.

• Create a gathering, meeting area for both the students and
faculty to interact with options for healthy snacks and or beverages.

• Introduce a semi-private comfortable area for students to either work individually or lounge.

• Create an aesthetic and a design language that represents the “Design” mindset.

The Problem

The design department at California State University, Long Beach is housed in a building from the early 1950’s. This space is inadequate and does not meet the needs of its users. A lack of a common space robs the chance from students of different tracks to communicate and learn from each-other’s experiences. Another issue is the need for a modular and flexible space, which is a requirement for any design related program.
Marc Prensky, an author and speaker on learning & education writes:

Students are not interested in large lecture halls. They prefer informal, small-group discussion—often through text messaging or e-mail—as a means of gaining understanding of the curriculum. They want a learning space that allows them to get to know one another, engage in dialogue, work independently or in groups on projects, and get or provide feedback. In general, they seek a collaborative environment that fosters understanding and learning. (Paradigm Shift, Herman Miller Research)

The Design Department at CSULB lacks such a space and students are forced to scavenge for a working space area (both inside and outside of the department) to complete their assignments, but often they are forced to leave the campus in order to work from home; this becomes cumbersome since CSULB is a commuter school and a high percentage of its students commute an average of 15-20 (one way) to the university.
Another issue is the condition of the facilities themselves. There are numerous studies done that show building conditions and inadequate facilities can affect a student’s performance. According to the same studies these effects are not limited to the students and can affect the staff and faculty in the same manner; the Department of Education of
United States has dedicated a section on their homepage to studies that correlate with these type of issues. For example, “a study in the district of Columbia school system found, after controlling for other variables such as student’s socioeconomic status, that students standardized achievement scores were lower in schools with poor building conditions. Students in school buildings in poor condition had an achievement score that was 6% below schools in fair condition and 11% below schools in excellent condition.” (Edwards 1991)


The Design Department
California State University, Long Beach

The client is the Department of Design at
California State University, Long Beach. This department houses 3 majors and is known for its prestigious 5-year Interior Architectural and Industrial Design programs. With the growing admission in CSU system, the design department has also faced an increase in demand therefore needs to expand its admission, but this increase in admission will create its own challenges.

California University, Long Beach

• Established in 1949

• A total of 36,822 students averaging 25 years of age attended in Fall of 2014
• Majority were from  Hispanic, Caucasian and Asian American backgrounds.
•  57% of students enrolled at this university are women.
• Is considered a commuter school, with more than 12,000 parking spots available.
• Rich in cultural backgrounds due to having students from over 100 foreign countries.



Just like any other educational institution, the main users in the design department are the students. They Interact with the building, its interior spaces and equipment on a daily basis. They have to utilize every space through out the time they study in the department; they require a space that is designed around their needs and that will help them achieve their academic goals. Most of the students at CSULB are commuters, and this requires prolonged stays on campus. Currently the layout and policies of the department does not provide access to the facilities for prolonged stays for all students; prolonged stays is limited to upper-division classes.


The faculty at the design department at California State University of Long Beach, all experts in their own fields have always come from very different educational, professional even cultural backgrounds. Following the students, they have the most interaction with the design building and its facilities. According to the design department’s website there are about 39 people including the department chair, professors, full-time and part-time lecturers that form the body of faculty at this department.


Just like any other department, design department also has its own staff ranging from advisers, operational coordinator, administrative support coordinators and etc. The staff are in charge of guiding the students, managing and maintenance of the facilities and coordinating student (Junior and Senior) shows, departmental ( Ex. Duncan Anderson lecture series) lectures and other outside events.