A Template for a Media Commons Typology
Javier Isado
School of Architecture, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Keywords: Learning Environments Design, Classroom and Laboratory Integration, Technology-enhanced Learning.
Abstract: This paper proposes an adaptable media commons concept as a foundational element for the design of
learning spaces. The concept is based on the possibility to create flexible and resourceful spatial situations
that can structure pedagogical and creative environments. The essential core elements, spaces, and artifacts
of the media commons project are equipped with technology that enable various multi-media venues and
practices of information transfer. This auditorium-classroom-laboratory integrated scenario would basically
act as a dynamic environment that would link pedagogy, creativity, and knowledge formation as a product
of social interaction in a specific set of spaces. This position paper about two manifestations of the media
commons project at the Rio Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico, is basically a research and
development study proposal on typological variations of an ensemble for in-person and remote collaborative
space -such as or similar to that of design studios, innovation hubs, and online forums and platforms- and
their effect on creativity, participation and authority in a pedagogical setting.
The proposal for a media commons project
presented in the following paper is part of the
research conducted by sTAND (Studies in
Architectural Narratives and Digital Design), an
initiative primarily interested in knowledge transfer
through new technologies in the field of architectural
The development of a media commons concept
is an applied research design exercise based on the
idea of creating a system of spaces that aims to
stimulate the senses, encourage exchange of
information and offer opportunities for rehearsal,
feedback, application and transfer. A combination of
laboratory spaces, public forum, and community
center, the Media Commons variations here
presented are part of an effort that seeks to establish
a network of active learning environments and foster
the development of a strong community of users.
1.1 The Media Commons Concept
1.1.1 Media
Media as a component of the media commons
concept is understood not as something you can
relate to, but something you have to relate in. In this
sense, media is seen not only as the devices
(hardware) or the programming (software) that
enable the transmission of information but the
combination of both in three-dimensional space.
The media commons concept is based on the
belief that something completely unique happens in
the area where media and space intersect with a
pedagogical objective. Specific design strategies can
be applied to coinciding channels, devices, tools,
interfaces, ensembles and groupings in order to
enhance their capacity to organize communication
and transfer information.
1.1.2 Commons
The idea to learn in commons is the other important
component of the media commons concept. Studies
show that students tend to respond positively to
environments that encourage interaction. Spaces can
be designed to harbor characteristics that cause
emotional responses that could either encourage or
discourage staying and engaging.
In their quest to encourage consumers to occupy
a space, marketing strategists and interior designers
have demonstrated that certain groups of users prefer
to stay in spaces with good levels of comfort and a
carefully crafted aesthetic image. Interaction in these
spaces is enabled with furniture that allows
individual private seating as well as the formation of
clusters of people. The starbuck’s effect basically
Isado J..
A Template for a Media Commons Typology.
DOI: 10.5220/0005476804330437
In Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU-2015), pages 433-437
ISBN: 978-989-758-108-3
2015 SCITEPRESS (Science and Technology Publications, Lda.)
consists of the possibility to satisfy basic needs and
desires such as eating, drinking and socializing with
the integration of comfort, flexibility and high-speed
1.1.3 Media Commons
The proposed concept is not an accidental
combination of stylish furniture with apparent
technology, but an organized set of spatial and
formal components that generate active learning
Media aimed to support individual and collective
learning via connectedness is dispersed throughout
the spaces, rather than being housed in a specifically
denominated computer lab or digital classroom.
Although optimized and zoned for specific activities,
an array of invisible technologies can in fact, be
brought into the space and made available to its
users or commoners in a flexible manner. The
proposed combination of the spaces and the
relationships created between them is expected to be
utilized across a broad range of curricular experience
and to work as well as a self-directed environment.
The proposed model incorporates five spatial
situations: a stage space or place for presentations,
debate, and show-off; a passage space or lively area
to drop in and move on; a collective space where
learning as a social process is carried out; an
individual concentration space for introspective
communication processes; and a studio space for
exploratory workshops and laboratories (Fig. 1).
Figure 1: Sectional illustration of the five spatial situations
present in the media commons model.
2.1 Law School Library Interior
Furniture Proposal
2.1.1 Description
The Law School Library Media Commons proposal
was developed in a design studio course working in
collaboration with a focus group composed of
representatives from the library’s administrative
personnel and the school’s faculty and student body.
The programmatic components of the design include
a reception area, a small conference/seminar room
space, a studio/lab space, an auditorium space and
an individual study room area.
2.1.2 First Level
The reception faces the main entrance and has an
important and multifunctional role. It will house
trained staff capable of providing in-person
assistance as well as touch-panel information
screens. Although daily scheduling and program
information will be available via text/email
messages for subscribers, users and guests at the
reception area will be immediately aware of the
day’s timetable and room assignments.
Aside from the reception area, the first level also
includes an auditorium space, a conference/seminar
room and a studio/lab space (Fig. 2). Both the
conference/seminar room and the studio/lab space
can be isolated acoustically from the rest of the
Figure 2: First Level Elements, Media Commons proposed
design, Law School Library, UPR.
The studio/lab space can be equipped as a multi-
media/3d immersive environment. The studio/lab
space is meant to address the need for spaces that
enable remote collaboration as well as teaching with
highly interactive, multi-user, digital multi-media. It
is also meant to allow frequent transformations and
accommodate several different types of activity
during the course of a single day.
The auditorium space serves as a
stage/passage/gathering area and has a dual function
as a stairway that connects to an upper level
mezzanine. The auditorium can be equipped as a
webcasting/recording studio.
2.1.3 Second Level
The second level has an area designated for
individual study and a mezzanine/passage area that
looks into the auditorium space (Fig. 3).
Figure 3: Second Level Elements, Media Commons
proposed design, Law School Library, UPR.
2.2 College of Natural Sciences
Outdoor Pavilion Proposal
2.2.1 Preliminary Schemes: Permanent
The Law Library Media Commons, basically an
interior furniture project, was reconfigured as a free-
standing pavilion in order to accommodate a new set
of site requirements presented by the faculty of the
College of Natural Sciences. The pavilion proposal
consisted of fixed concrete structural elements and a
roof/terrace slab that incorporated existing trees and
responded to building alignments. Through the
incorporation of semi-enclosed exterior spaces with
some enclosed interior areas the pavilion housed the
same programmatic components as the law school
2.2.2 Preliminary Schemes: Movable
An alternate proposal for a completely removable
installation was prepared as requested by the College
of Natural Sciences. The design concept for the
installation consisted of the flexible aggrupation of
two constructive elements: stage/room towers and
seating platforms. The towers could house interior
spaces and act as structural elements for the support
of large-scale media walls. They could also be
connected to increase contiguous interior square
footage as needed. The seating platforms could be
set to configure an amphitheatre space or be placed
in numerous other arrangements.
2.2.3 Final Version: Fixed + Movable
The College of Natural Sciences eventually selected
a location for the project that due to administrative
and regulatory conditions needed to incorporate
elements from both previous preliminary schemes.
In this new scenario, the steps component of the
media commons was conceived as a fixed element to
be installed on an existing slope. The multi-use
interior and exterior spaces would be housed in a
removable structure placed at the base of the slope
(Fig. 4).
Figure 4: Elements, Media Commons proposed design,
College of Natural Sciences, UPR.
2.2.4 Fixed Elements: Steps
The fixed seating area of the outdoor auditorium
component is basically a series of small concrete
retaining walls. These retaining walls will be
arranged in combination with the existing slope to
create steps and the seating areas. In terms of its
construction, some of its horizontal elements would
be poured in place and others could be pre-cast
much like large-scale stadiums seating situations.
Enclosing and space defining elements in this area
(for the creation of a control room area, a backstage
and the refurbishing of the existing solid side wall)
would be built with outdoor-resistant materials and
would safely carry the new electrical infrastructure.
2.2.5 Movable Elements: Lightweight
The multi-use component of the media commons
will be built as an easily dismountable lightweight
framework. The open ground floor of the multi-use
space area allows it to be easily configured for any
of the transitory activities, such as gatherings,
exhibitions, discussions, screenings or workshops.
The continuous concrete floor slab on the ground
area integrates the foundations needed at the base of
the lightweight structure columns and can also
incorporate precast concrete tiles that would allow
water to permeate through. Additional ground floor
area could be provided by a removable wood plastic
composite decking.
The upper level of the lightweight structure will
be connected by a ramp/catwalk to the top of the
seating area. This level will provide space for the
interior enclosed spaces of the multi-use component
of the project. Its floor, vertical window surfaces and
roof components will also be dismountable. The roof
component will feature as well skylights with
flexible shading systems such as fabric screens that
span between the structural framework and act as
light diffusers.
3.1 The Media Commons as a
Possibility for a Typology
3.1.1 New School Prototypes –
Interior/Exterior Construction
Applying the original set of ideas intended for the
law library interior project to the college of natural
sciences exterior location resulted in the
Figure 5a: Sectional illustrations of the five spatial
situations present in the media commons model.
development of a wider range of options to
accomplish identical programs. Regardless of the
fixed and movable components, the combination of
the spaces that constitute both proposals provide five
typical situations meant to help configure an active
learning environment (Fig. 5a, 5b).
Figure 5b: Sectional illustrations of the five spatial
situations present in the media commons model.
3.1.2 New School Prototypes – Building
The strategic aggregation or clustering of media
commons components could produce a unique kind
of building environment (Fig. 6). This new
architectural setting would allow space to become a
special component of a curricular experience and
impact the school’s overall learning environment.
Figure 6: Possible cluster organizations of the media
commons model.
3.2 The Media Commons: Research
and Development Opportunities
3.2.1 Learning Protocols
The Media Commons concept creates the need to
incorporate different sets of learning
approaches/interfaces for each of the five active
learning environments and their possible range of
combinations. Research and development must be
carried out in the field of protocols that need to be
designed for the relationships between specific users
and providers with the space and the technology for
each area.
3.2.2 Classroom/Laboratory Integration
The Media Commons concept also presents an
opportunity for research and development in the
field of interior design with an emphasis on the
integration of technology. The concept depends on
the possibility that the design of flexible and
resourceful settings that structure pedagogical
environments can be attained with careful
consideration of adaptable parameters in terms of the
configuration of seating, lighting, acoustic, and
audio-visual furnishing systems.
3.2.3 Information Science
The transfer of information exists in a cultural and
social context. The design and evaluation of net-
worked, multi-media environments for educational
endeavour such as the Media Commons concept
must be cross-examined through a multi-disciplinary
lens which would include main thematic areas that
would range from computer science and information
systems management to cognitive psychology.
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