Is There a Limit to the Size of a Good Classroom?

by Becca Cavell

Changes in funding for higher education have left many institutions scrambling to find more cost effective ways to graduate increasing numbers of enrolled students. Many innovative concepts are at play, ranging from reducing the “average” student tenure from four to three years to providing more class materials on line and thus reducing contact hours of teaching. One of the most controversial trends is the rising interest in “mega classrooms” – auditoriums that hold sometimes more than 1,000 students.

Can such huge classrooms succeed?

The reality is that the onus will fall on the performance of the instructor as well as the room. An effective outcome requires an instructor who is both informative and entertaining, supported by a strong lesson plan, careful management of the students, and a stellar room and audiovisual system design. Compare these goals to those of mega churches or to “motivational speaker” conferences; the parallels are easy to draw. The educational experience is carefully choreographed and is supported with muscular AV systems. The physical spaces are as accessible as possible, while maximizing sight-lines throughout the room. Close attention is paid to the acoustics from both the speaker and audience perspective, and crowd control principles help organize the space.

The goal?  To inspire the listener.

The use of live interaction systems such as clickers can help engage students by soliciting real-time feedback, while content-capture allows web-posting and subsequent review of the class on-demand. The greatest challenge may be the distribution and proctoring of in-room tests using the traditional paper and pencil approach; careful design should provide instructors and their teaching assistants with easy travel pathways throughout the space to achieve these and other pedagogical goals.

So the mega-classroom approach can work, if the spaces are carefully considered and well supported with appropriate technology. But in the end the success of such spaces will rest on the shoulders of the faculty who are willing and able to perform to, and entertain, a crowd.

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Hackers = Makers

by Scott Barton-Smith

If you’ve been to Hacker’s office in the past year and a half, you probably noticed art on the walls of our building’s vestibule and reception area. This rotating Makers exhibit showcases the off-hours work of our multi-talented team. By day we are architects, interior designers, and talented support personnel; by night we are artists. What began as a desire to exhibit some of our creative endeavors outside of work has turned into an amazing get-to-know-you. Every couple of months, a new batch of artistic expression graces our walls and gives us insight into our colleagues’ broad talents, inspiration, and personalities. Twelve Hackers have already displayed their art since October 2015 and there is no sign of it stopping! Scroll through for a sampling…

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Hacker Builds!

by Garrett Martin

Our website typically shows you beautiful photos of our completed projects, or equally beautiful renderings of our projects “on the boards.” Have you ever wondered what happens in-between, or when those renderings will finally take actual form? Despite how it may appear sometimes, it all doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye or under cover of darkness.

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What Pro Bono Work Has Taught Us

by Audrey Alverson

Pro bono architecture: Why do we do it?

Hacker has long been a signatory of the 1+ Program, which challenges designers to dedicate 1% or more of their time to pro bono service – but through trial and error over the years, we often found it challenging to bring this work to fruition. After a few fits and starts, and some mostly small-scale projects and studies, last year we decided to put some teeth to our commitment to pro bono service. Through this process, we’ve learned that the problem was never a lack of desire or good intentions, but more so a lack of planning.

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Nurturing Growth in Lents Town Center

by Garrett Martin

On Sunday October 23rd of last year, we joined Bremik Construction and the Portland Development Commission to strike golden shovels into the ground and begin construction on the 9101 SE Foster project, a mixed-use multi-family building in the heart of Lents Town Center.

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Why Hacker Started Paying for Parental Leave

by Sarah Bell

This year, Hacker implemented a new paid parental leave policy, covering six weeks at full salary for birth mothers and about four and ½ weeks full salary for a spouse of the parent who gives birth (adoptive parents get the same). This is in addition to the flexible paid time off granted to every Hacker employee.

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A Saturday with Lou

by Scott Barton-Smith

Nearly half of the Hacker team caravanned north to attend the final day of the Bellevue Arts Museum’s retrospective Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture on April 30th. Although the exhibit includes video interviews of notable architects enthusing Kahn’s work, we had a more interactive guide. Our firm founder Thom Hacker gave us a personalized tour of the exhibit, which includes several projects on which Thom collaborated with his mentor “Lou.” The exhibit features many models and drawings prepared by Kahn’s office spanning projects from the Esherick House to more well know works like The Salk Institute, The Kimbell Art Museum, and the National Assembly Building in Dhaka. The exhibit even includes a full scale reproduction of the famous window seat designed for the Fisher house. Much of this material has not seen the light of day since Kahn’s death and it is remarkable that the large yet delicate cardboard, clay, and wood models survived.

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University of Wyoming Visual Arts Facility Wins COTE Award

by Nic Smith

Hacker is a proud recipient of a 2016 AIA COTE Top Ten Green Projects award for University of Wyoming’s Visual Arts Facility (VAF), a pioneering LEED Platinum facility that has shaped a new approach to health, safety, and sustainability in arts education. The 80,000-SF building consolidates the University’s fine arts program from its scattered locations, establishing a central component of the campus’s new arts district. It also marks a turning point in the campus’s thinking about environmental responsibility. Read more

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From the Vaults: High Desert Museum

by Sarah Bell

When the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon’s New Home had its dedication last year, I drove to Bend for the day with my two youngest boys, who were both under 5 years old. I arrived several hours before the dedication with both boys needing to expend energy built up over the 3-hour car ride. Not having planned on it, I took them to the High Desert Museum – not because I wanted to show them a Hacker building, but because I knew it would wear them out.

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Designing for Design Schools: What type of collaboration space works?

by Becca Cavell

We’re excited to be working right now with UC Davis on the renovation of the north wing of Cruess Hall – a rather industrial 1950s building that will house screening rooms, labs, and maker spaces for the Cinema & Digital Media and Industrial Design programs. Some of these spaces will be quite industrial themselves, and seem a fitting use for the currently vacant building.  As we begin to look for case studies to inform our work, our client shared this video from Stanford’s D-School, showing 10 days in the life of the D’s central collaboration space. It’s time-lapse, and takes just four minutes to view – and it demonstrates how a very utilitarian space can be the beating heart of an institution if you plan it right, furnish it right, and relax a bit.

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Denny Hall Finally Gets Its Due

by Stephanie Shradar

At the University of Washington, Denny Hall has been awaiting revitalization for nearly a decade. During that time, Hacker has been working on and off again to get UW the final product. The project has gone through funding stalls and starts; the design firm has gone through two name changes; and the building has patiently awaited its new core.

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