Skip to content

Why Space Matters!

The Story of the Sakamaki Innovation Zone

by Kathie Kane, Center for Teaching Excellence, Fall 2014

In response to the unique setting of Mānoa campus and influenced by the concept of agility in classroom and building environment, the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs (OVCAA) and the Office of Faculty Development and Academic Support (OFDAS) envisioned a present and future enterprise in which spacial and technological structures enable and sustain multiple and simultaneous platforms of teaching and learning, emerging from instinctively kinetic rather than monastic traditions.

The ecology of educational environments with regard to design and materials follows in the path of transformation in paradigms of teaching and learning that involve recognition of the:

  • Technology literacies of students;
  • Desire of junior and senior faculty alike to generate transformations in their courses, their teaching, and in student learning;
  • Movement at administrative levels to achieve a reconfigured educational enterprise.

Those were the constituents who participated in the design and execution, beta testing and assessing, of the effect of energizing spaces for engaged, innovative teaching and learning.

Concept for Three Agile Teaching and Learning Spaces and adjacent Courtyard Environment

Conceptualized as three innovative indoor spaces connecting to a common outdoor lanai or courtyard space, the Sakamaki Innovation Zone provides UH Mānoa with innovative course offerings for undergraduate and graduate all year round for day and evening classes. The first floor of Tower D of Sakamaki Hall was selected for already having qualities conducive to a sense of openness, air and light, accessibility, expansiveness, and convivial relations—all outcomes as defined through a series of facilitated focus groups. Use of newly conceptualized spaces would be determined through a process of submitting course syllabi that demonstrate innovative high impact teaching and learning practices and a willingness to have a process of assessment conducted on the relationship of teaching and learning to space and environment.

In Fall 2011, focus groups of faculty were invited from departments and colleges across campus to meet at the Office of Faculty Development and Academic Support (OFDAS) for facilitated discussion and brainstorming. These focused on the kinds of spaces and features that would define and fill newly designed spaces to facilitate more engaged, rigorous, and innovative sets of teaching practices and learning outcomes. From those recorded discussions, common thematics and distinct and innovative insights were collated to guide the development of the new innovative teaching space.

KYA Design Group in Moi‘ili‘ili presented an overview of some broad concepts for this project early in spring 2012 and began working collaboratively with a small team from OVCAA and OFDAS staff to develop a cohesive vision grounded in the concept of agility in good teaching practice and in good design practice. The concept of agility would inspire striving for innovative, engaging features, including:

  • a de-centered classroom with a sense of openness, air and light;
  • informal, flexible furniture allowing for multiple seating options, including the option to stand at writing surfaces;
  • multiple whiteboard and sliding plexi-glass writing surfaces for all students as well as the teacher to utilize;
  • light, hand-held technology, or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD); and,
  • sustainable lights and air conditioning usage.

This collaboration created three distinct classroom spaces, thematically connected but functioning differently with wide variance between the kinds of seating options and room arrangements. Shared between the three spaces is the notion that Space Matters. To borrow from the thematic concept of Space Matters: Exploring Spatial Theory and Practice Today, an international symposium held in Linz, Austria in May 2012:

Space Matters. It represents a prominent aspect of humanity’s existential nature—as the primordial basis of architecture and a basic prerequisite for our exploration of our world. Our entire lives are literally embedded in space. We are constantly surrounded, affected and shaped by it—whether consciously perceived or unconsciously experienced. Our spaces both reflect the values and power relationships in our societies and have the potential to alter them; spatial planning can be a powerful political actor. Construction projects in educational institutions become a part of a hidden-in-plain-sight curriculum and as such, campus classrooms and buildings either contribute to a crisis of sustainability in intellectual and material resources, or signal university leadership and commitment to a transformed educational enterprise. Sakamaki Innovation Zone is one articulation of commitment to transformation in the Mānoa educational enterprise.