Plainfield Schools sought to repurpose a 17,000 square foot natatorium into an educational facility. Their goal was to create an innovative, inspiring, hands-on learning facility branded as the “Imagination Lab”. A team of a passionate educators were assembled to work with the design team. They worked together to establish the program and over-arching goals for the facility. In order to enhance the ability of the educators to envision the space, designers used virtual reality to allow educators to be “in” the spaces and provide amazing feedback that designers were able to build upon. The resulting design created an environment to empower students to think for themselves, imagine their futures, and grow the confidence, desire, and drive it takes to change the world.
A large lab space establishes the heart of the facility with supplementary spaces for focused means and methods of learning, building, creating, inventing, and investigating. At one end, a fabrication lab with sinks and work benches encourages hands on, messy work while two green rooms with cycloramas for video recording, two acoustically treated sound rooms for editing, and tables designed for collaboration around a computer are at the opposite end. A centrally focused gathering stair made of solid walnut planks provides an opportunity for speakers of all ages to present to large groups. Four Thinking Studios sit parallel to the lab and house artists-in-residence and encourage community vendors to provide an on-site learning experience. A Collaboration Corridor connects the Thinking Studios and the Lab. Flexible furniture provides options for various postures and group sizes as they work together to problem-solve, create, and learn. Operable glass partitions connect the corridor to the lab as well as connecting all of the thinking studios in order to create a large, open space supporting multiple functions.
Mobility was key as the needs and experiences change throughout the days, as do the ages of the students. The space comes to life with a wall graphic that captures the concept of the flow of learning. The mission of the Imagination Lab was to empower students to think for themselves, imagine their futures, and grow the confidence, desire, and drive it takes to change the world. The District will tell you: mission accomplished.