Can architecture spur creativity?

That’s the central question of a recently published New York Times (NYT) piece – The Innovation Campus: Building Better Ideas – that highlights the University of Utah’s Lassonde Studios, a groundbreaking project designed by the Yazdani Studio of CannonDesign. Set to open this month and redefine entrepreneurial education, Lassonde Studios is a first-of-its-kind building that houses more than 400 unique student residences and 20,000 sf of “garage” space where any student on campus can build a prototype, attend an event or launch a company. It is the place where students will live, learn and launch companies.

As the NYT piece notes, Lassonde Studios is indicative of a larger trend through which “colleges and universities are building deluxe structures for the generation of wonderful ideas. They and their partners in industry are pouring millions into new buildings for business, engineering, and applied learning that closely resemble the high-tech workplace.” In these spaces, one is, “more likely to find a garage door and a 3-D printer than book-lined offices and closed-off classrooms, more likely to huddle with peers at a round table than go to a lecture hall with seats for 100. Seating is flexible, ranging from bleachers to sofas, office chairs to privacy booths.”

The full NYT article can be read online here. Below is the excerpt focused on Lassonde Studios.

University of Utah: Living Over the Store

University of Utah, Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute“Live. Create. Launch” That’s the tagline for the University of Utah’s $45 million Lassonde Studios, opening this month. The residential component has been absorbed into this live-work building, anticipating the early lifestyle of dot-com employees, whose living quarters usually resemble walk-in closets. The Utah version is more plush, however: Residents, who can be graduate or undergraduate and in any major, can choose pods (cubby like rooms with built-in bed, desk, storage and TV), lofts in an industrial vernacular (beds in a communal setting with shared kitchen, lounge and bathrooms) or more traditional single or double rooms.

Different floors have different themes, based on Utah’s existing strengths: one for games and digital media, one for adventure and gear, one for design and the arts, one for global impact and sustainability. The ground-floor “garage” has workshops equipped with 3-D printers, laser cutters and other prototyping tools, available to anyone at the university and staffed by work-study students. All the programs offered by the Lassonde Entrepreneurship Institute, the division that is building the studios, are extracurricular and interdisciplinary; a few degrees are offered in partnership with the business school.

“One thing about the building it is has no formal classroom, and no faculty or staff offices,” said Troy D’Ambrosio, executive director of the institute. “We didn’t want to have a classroom because that says, ‘In this room you learn, out here you don’t learn.’

Innovation buildings tend to be affiliated with schools of business or engineering, but there is a strong arts presence within them. Lassonde Studios, designed by Yazdani Studio of CannonDesign, hopes to attract students from industrial design, fine arts, and communications. “We have made an effort to say, “Entrepreneurs create new things, and you do that too.”

A thousand students applied for the 400 beds this fall, and 37 percent of the chosen are women. “It’s important to have a critical mass of women involved so (more) women will come in,” he said. “Engineering is very heavily male, the business school is more male than female, but we are getting applicants from the fine arts, humanities and health sciences. Students have 35 to 40 different majors, and that happened pretty organically.”

Learn more about Lassonde Studios >