Updated Lecture Hall Building Reflects Evergreen-Style Learning

November 2, 2016

When The Evergreen State College’s lecture hall building opened in 1971 it was a fairly traditional space—with large, auditorium-style classrooms—located at a new college that was to become known as one of the most innovative in the country. Thanks to a recently completed remodel and renovation, the building is now much more tailored to Evergreen’s education model and the needs of 21st century students.

“While large auditoriums are still the norm at many colleges and universities,” explained Evergreen spokesman Todd Sprague, “the lecture hall building was a bit out of synch with Evergreen’s innovative model of interdisciplinary programs, small classes and active seminar discussions. The newly remodeled building, now called Purce Hall, is much more in tune with Evergreen’s distinctive style of teaching and learning and also includes improvements in technology, access and sustainability.”

There will be a dedication event to celebrate the opening of the remodeled lecture hall, and honor former Evergreen president Thomas “Les” Purce for whom it is named, from 2-3 p.m. on Wednesday, November 9 in Purce Hall. The public is invited to attend.

The updated facility has a number of improvements.

Built for Evergreen-Style Learning

The renovated Purce Hall 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. There are also six collaboration spaces outside of classrooms, designed for small group work, each furnished to allow for different projects and activities.

Preserving the Style While Improving the Function

In the early stages of planning for the remodel, architects developed several scenarios, Sprague explained. “They  ranged from tearing down the entire lecture hall 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 windows, including windows looking out onto Red Square, and softening the feel of the building with wood and added color. It’s good mix of old and new.”


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.


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 six small collaboration spaces has a large flat panel display that can be connected to laptops or handheld devices.


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.

The Evergreen State College in Olympia is a public four-year liberal arts college nationally recognized for its distinctive interdisciplinary approach, strong academics and focus on undergraduate teaching. The college also has an upper division bachelor’s degree program in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. In addition to undergraduate education, Evergreen offers three graduate degrees: Master in Teaching, Master of Environmental Studies and Master of Public Administration, including a distinctive tribal governance concentration.