Updated Lecture Hall Building Reflects Evergreen-Style Learning | The Evergreen State College

Updated Lecture Hall Building Reflects Evergreen-Style Learning

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An architect’s original vision for the “Large Group Instructional Center” from 1969.

Whether you think of it as the bunker, the spaceship, the pie, the pizza slices, or just the Lecture Halls, the distinctive concrete structure has been a campus landmark since 1971. When it opened it was a fairly traditional space—with large, steep, auditorium-style classrooms—located at what would soon become known as one of the most innovative colleges in the country. Thanks to a recently completed remodel and renovation, the building is now much more tailored to Evergreen’s style of reaching and learning, and the needs of 21st-century students.

The building—which the trustees voted to name Purce Hall to honor former Evergreen President Les Purce—was dedicated on November 9, the day after the election.

Gerald Pumphrey, former president of South Puget Sound Community College, congratulates Les Purce ahead of the Purce Hall dedication ceremony.

Les Purce engages with student demonstrators and expresses solidarity with their concerns following the U.S. presidential election.

Following emotional and passionate demonstrations on Red Square and at the board of trustees meeting that day, students also brought their fears and concerns about the implications of the presidential election, and their expectations for college administrators across a broad range of issues, into the dedication ceremony.

Chemistry students make use of Purce Hall’s abundant study spaces, created to preserve and emphasize the Evergreen style of collaborative learning.

In his remarks, former president Purce asked demonstrators to honor his time and message and assured them that he would honor their opportunity to speak as well. He expressed solidarity with the students and said, “If this building has my name, where students will walk through it to be educated, to have seminars, to argue, to resolve conflicts, that will make all the difference in my heart...because that is what it should do and that is what it is designed to do and it’s wonderful to have the environment where that can happen.”

Following the ceremonies, he took time to engage with students one on one, as did President Bridges and other administrators and staff. It was a challenging day for everyone and clearly there’s a lot of work ahead, as Evergreen’s Five Foci say, to “learn across significant differences.”

Purce Hall’s large windows allow for plenty of natural light and offer a sweeping view of Red Square and nearby campus buildings.

More About Purce Hall

Built for Evergreen-style learning

The renovated building contains four lecture halls, only one of which has the large size found on many other campuses. With a capacity of just over 300, this room will accommodate large campus gatherings and public events. The remaining lecture halls, and four additional classrooms, are smaller, more flexible spaces designed with Evergreen’s teaching style in mind. In addition to classrooms, there are six collaboration spaces, designed for small group work, each furnished to allow for different projects and activities. Those areas, and new movable seating in the rotunda area, have created a popular study and hang-out space for students.

Preserving the style while improving the function

In the early stages of planning for the remodel, architects developed several scenarios. These ranged from tearing down the entire Lecture Halls building, and losing the distinctive brutalist architectural style, to retaining half or even three quarters of the exterior while modernizing the facilities inside. The college decided to pursue a design that kept much of the exterior of the original while adding a lot more light, including skylights and windows looking out onto Red Square, and softening the feel of the building with wood and added color. The renovation strikes a balance of old and new.

Accessibility

The original steeply tiered design of the lecture hall spaces was neither accommodating nor welcoming to wheelchair users or other people with mobility issues. The new design changes that, incorporating gently sloping walkways and ramps, designated wheelchair spaces, and technology infrastructure for the hearing impaired.

Technology

In addition to Wi-Fi, projection, and audio systems, data and power outlets are conveniently located throughout the lecture halls. Most of the furniture has built-in USB and standard outlets for laptops and electronic devices. One of the small collaboration spaces has a large flat-panel display that can be connected to laptops or handheld devices.

Environmentalism

Evergreen is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification for Purce Hall. LEED is a third-party verification system for rating sustainable buildings. In making environmental choices, one goal was to preserve or reuse materials from the original building. For example, much of the exterior was retained and the back wall of Lecture Hall 1 is clad with wooden slats reused from the original building.