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Doban Architecture & Think Fabricate Create New Academic Center for Monroe College

Custom built furnishings are conducive to intimate tutoring sessions


BROOKLYN, NY -- Students at Monroe College now have an innovative new center for studying and gathering on campus. Doban Architecture and its affiliated multidisciplinary design studio, Think Fabricate, transformed three adjoining storefront spaces into a state-of-the-art academic center with custom furnishing elements, bold colors and a prefabricated wall system. The team was commissioned by the college to produce an inspiring environment with a unique identity and myriad learning environments to cater to different learning styles. The recently completed 2,360-square-foot academic center features a clean modern aesthetic, a technology-rich system, inviting study nooks and is situated in the middle of faculty offices to give students easy access to their professors and the academic dean.

With no central quadrangle on campus and many adult learners attending class in the evenings, Monroe College wanted to establish a welcoming interactive learning center that was open to students throughout the day. The college wished to place faculty and administrators front and center so that students who needed academic support and advising could easily find them and meet on a regular basis. They also wanted a variety of environments conducive to individual learning styles, different teaching approaches, and varied subject matter.

Doban Architecture’s long-standing history with the college coupled with Think Fabricate’s product design and fabrication skills made the team a natural fit for the project. Doban has been the driving architectural design force for Monroe College since 2002, working on dozens of projects on the campus, from master planning to the design of new facilities such as the award-winning Culinary Arts Center. The firm also has an impressive portfolio of educational, commercial and arts buildings in New Rochelle, including a five building project on Main Street intended as a model for preservation and restoration of historic properties for the city.

According to Monroe’s Executive Vice President, Marc Jerome, ”It is important that all of our projects have a welcoming environment so that students and faculty feel inspired about education. This center is a unique asset to our campus that conveys all of the right messages about active participation in learning.”

According to firm Principal, Susan Doban, “Our combined capabilities in architecture and furniture design enabled us to tailor a solution and craft it in such a way that it meets the programmatic requirements and creates the right vibe within a small and challenging space.”

The location of the Academic Center, right off the main corridor of the campus’s original building on Main Street, provided an opportunity for visibility. The firm established a unifying “façade” in saturated color, facing a major circulation corridor. The center is also visible through newly created window openings, which feature glass in a gradient of transparencies. Dark colors were used to distinguish the center from the rest of the hallway and a new security desk and reception desk were designed to further establish the unique character of the facility.

Furnishings for collaborative learning of varying types were specially designed to support the center’s purpose. All of the custom furniture elements in the project were co-designed by Doban Architecture and Think Fabricate and locally crafted in Think Fabricate’s Brooklyn studio. The team designed “two-on-one” computer tutoring stations that blend traditional “white board learning” with an approach only possible through technology. Two students work with a teacher at an angled table, using their own keyboard yet all wired to a single, wall-mounted monitor for collaborative viewing and discussion. A sliding white board easily passes in front of the monitor when needed for solving math problems with a marker in hand.

Prefabricated “one-on-one” tutoring stations - that double as faculty offices - with a built-in work surface and integral white board wall were also designed to create a private setting for focused tutoring sessions. Window locations and sizes vary from module to module but are all painted a deep plum color, giving the composition a playful, inviting aspect. The team also crafted adjunct facility workstations, a custom bench with built-in bookshelves and collaboration tables designed for group interaction.

Consideration for the environment is top of mind for Doban Architecture and Think Fabricate, in all of its projects and products. Painted MDF was used in many of the furnishings for its recycled content and, wherever possible, existing materials were kept in place.