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image Project: El Centro Student and Technology Center

El Centro Student and Technology Center


A Designer's Perspective

A Designer's Perspective

The then President of El Centro College, envisioned creating the crown jewel of the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) at its flagship campus.

El Centro Community College had evolved over the years and the existing campus had reached the 10,000 student population growth limit through previous expansions/additions, resulting in three interconnected buildings. Two architectural firms, CamargoCopeland Architects, LLP as Prime Architect/Architect of Record and Pierce, Goodwin, Alexander, Linville (PGAL, Inc.) were commissioned by DCCCD to collaborate and carry out a major renovation and expansion of the existing campus facilities. The design team was charged with creating a campus identity and establishing a hereto non-existent front door, resolving major horizontal and vertical circulation conflicts, satisfying curriculum and student needs through the addition of a technology and student center, and modernizing a community icon. It was imperative to develop a contextually-sensitive design solution, creating a unifying architectural element amidst seemingly incongruent architectural styles, while honoring the significance of the campus within a major metropolitan downtown setting, overlaid by the requirements of the historic district, as the campus is located within a district listed in the National Historic Registry.

The evolving culture of educational and learning environments greatly impacted the planning and programmatic goals of this project, which were three-fold: (1) preparing students for the workforce, (2) creating a space which resembles the business world, and (3) affording the opportunity for students to experience the new collaborative work culture, which aligns with the overall mission of the college and District. The project successfully integrates functional and aesthetic goals and includes a commons area serving as an informal learning environment; an art gallery to display artwork of both students and faculty; a full service kitchen/snack bar, supported by students from the culinary arts program; a cyber cafe; an A/V lounge; student government offices and a technology center. In the cyber cafe, students have access to free-standing computer islands for their convenience between classes, which will double as registration stations. New computer labs were built to create the technology center with state-of-the-art computers and media. All areas were designed to create a more student-friendly setting, and pivotal space fostering collaboration, interaction, and artistic expression. At once, the new learning environment became the connective tissue as well as the heart of the campus.

All stakeholders, including the student body, faculty, and administrators were integrated in the formulation of the programming, planning, and ultimately, the design solution. The design solution was driven by the need to clarify and simplify vertical and horizontal circulation, establishing an overall campus identity and front door. The addition has indeed become the crown jewel of the District.

Chancellor's Viewpoint

Since its founding in 1966, the District has become a jewel in the landscape with its unswerving commitment to student success as our reason for being.

We approached the voters of the County in 2004 with an appeal for the first general obligation bond issue since 1972. The objective of the bond program was to enhance the physical facilities of the colleges and promote the vision of the college and District as Workforce Development centers contributing to the success of the various communities and populations we serve.

The flagship college was the first of the colleges to be established. With that perspective in mind, a major component of the bond program was to reinforce the flagship campus as vital to the community, provide a means to simplify and clarify the primary circulation paths between existing buildings which had evolved over time, give the campus a front door image, assert its prominence within its urban setting, and at the same time provide State of the Art technology facilities, and a Student Center inclusive of offices, meeting rooms, and common areas.

The College offers an outstanding array of credit and continuing education courses that cover various professional areas, including:

- Arts & Sciences
- Business & Public Service
- Continuing/Workforce Education
- Communications, Mathematics, Developmental Studies
- Teaching Certification
- Information Technology & Systems Support

The task of designing an appropriate facility responsive to such a broad array of program areas requires a design team that understands the culture of the institution, the thrust of its programs, and can aid the college in envisioning the future through facility design and construction.

We are pleased that it was possible for two firms that had previously served the District to be engaged in the design for the new Student and Technology Center, as they fully understand the criticality of a building design that supports an innovative learning environment. They were able to incorporate flexibility and adaptability in the architecture to support the evolution of an institution which seeks to remain in the leading edge of educational curriculum development and offering.

In the new Student and Technology Center, one of the outstanding features is the Student Commons Area, which is the hub of social activity and interaction. The design simulates corporate America in its effort to create innovative learning environments and settings. The availability of a cyber cafe, an art gallery, a theater, and the participation of students from the Culinary Arts Institute as well as the Arts department, among others, all contribute to creating an enriched learning facility that allows the diversity within the student body to become palpable and experienced.

Visitors to the Student Technology Center marvel at the unique design and user friendly environment. The faculty and administration have been extremely pleased with the flexibility, adaptability, performance of the Student and Technology Center, and unique characteristic to serve as a catalyst for interaction, enhancing and enriching college life and experiences for our students.

The goals of the District have been well served.

Recognized Value Award 2007



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