California State University, Long Beach
Inside CSULB Logo

A Corridor Of Collaboration

Published: October 1, 2013

Students in CSULB’s BFA Interior Design Program looking for that real-world experience received it when they participated in an on-campus design collaboration between students, faculty and administrators that resulted in a redesigned Academic Services Building corridor between the College of the Arts and the Beach Hut.

The redesign employed eight teams of three students and one team of two students from Professor Dorothy Ottolia’s junior level studio course. Their charge was to create new uses for the hallway. In December, CSULB’s then-President F. King Alexander, Vice President Mary Stephens and College of the Arts Dean Christopher Miles were among those who had a chance to review the final design proposals.

Ottolia believes the redesign reflects the Design Department’s commitment to real-world experience for its students.

“Often we are only able to provide our students with theoretical projects, and we ask them to create a restaurant or offices,” she explained. “This redesign was a real project that required interviews with the faculty and student users as well as the administrators on this campus.”

The students researched, planned and designed an informal learning space created from a student’s perspective, explained Ottolia, a member of the Design Department since 1999.

“This wide passageway is the perfect in-between space for socializing, teaching, learning and collaboration,” she said. It serves as a major corridor from the College of the Arts Offices (to the south), to the Beach Hut to the north and the University Library in the west.

“The amount of money saved is substantial,” she added. “As a professional architect, I know that it may have been cost-prohibitive to hire a professional firm to design the space.”

Ottolia mentioned that several professionals and product manufacturers donated their time and expertise during the design phase. In addition, she noted that she is especially thankful for the support and dedication of Associate Vice President of Physical Planning and Facilities Management David Salazar, Physical Planning’s Interim Director of Design and Construction Services Sam Mori, Project Manager Design and Construction Services Eletrice Harris, Manager Design and Construction Services Marie-Jeanne Ayoub, Manager of Design Services Mike Kelly, project inspector Martin Grant, the architect of record Leslie Gentile of AC Martin Architects, and Herman Miller’s Elizabeth Dea. The winning student project was design by CSULB students Briana Sausser and Danielle Herrera.

“I love to see how students are really using it,” said Ottolia. “Our goal was to create a variety of environments because we know that all students work differently. All the space had before was a series of very uncomfortable metal benches which were meant to handle the library overflow. Now there are a variety of seating arrangements for students to select from. With its combination of yellow, black and pyramid patterns in the floor, the students’ goal was to evoke the spirit of Cal State Long Beach.”

Corridor Of Collaboration
PHOTO BY Shayne Schroeder
A long view of the redesigned corridor.

That new environment includes multiple new electrical outlets, a pathway lined with pyramid-shaped patterns, new acoustic tiles, linear mechanical diffusers to cool and warm the space more evenly, new energy saving LED lighting and, due this month, a $50,000 donation of furniture from Herman Miller, a recognized innovator in contemporary interior furnishings.

“Herman Miller used this project as a case study,” she explained. “They required a questionnaire, so the designers and other design students interviewed 100 students who they encountered in the space and input the data online in their handheld smart devices. We will initiate a follow-up questionnaire after the project is completed to determine if the user’s perception of the space has improved. Portions of the design had to be altered due to financial and physical constraints; however, I would say this corridor is incredibly close to the original students’ design.”

Ottolia believes that by participating in this project, students learned about real life.

“Typically in school, we dream. Not until we get out into industry do we work on or design something ‘real,’” she said. “We were very lucky to have architects who were willing to work with them without their egos getting in the way. They were students once and they decided to make it happen. The students became their apprentices.”

According to Ottolia, this project tells CSULB that its Design Department wants to collaborate and provide its talents to everyone on campus.

“After more than 40 years, many people still don’t realize that there is a Design Department on campus,” she said. “Now, I hope they see that the design students are very talented and understand that they give back to their campus because they love being here.”