Beyond the Classroom

4 Questions to Ask When Designing Assembly Spaces

Work with what you’ve got. That’s what schools have been doing for decades, but now many are expecting more functionality from their standard cafeteria, gymnasium, or auditorium.

Innovative design concepts for multipurpose areas can provide greater learning opportunities for students while maximizing precious spaces and acting as an open social gathering center. Used for anything from assemblies to performances to after-school club meetings, these common spaces create a sense of school culture and can aid in connecting the school with the neighboring community.

Near Seattle, the Bainbridge Island School District’s multipurpose room combines the structure of a cafeteria with that of a performing arts center. Round tables with individual chairs, tiered risers, an AV system, curtains, and moveable wall panels are just a few of its features.

When it comes to defining your multipurpose space, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:


1. What’s the focus of the space?

In the example of Bainbridge, the space needed multimedia equipment that would accommodate its needs. Determine the main purpose for your space so that you know what you’ll need moving forward. The variety of activities your multipurpose space needs may include dining, plays, films, assemblies, community events, physical education, or large-group instruction.


2. Is it warm and inviting for all participants?

The transition from the home setting to institutional settings can be stressful, especially for younger children. Experience tells us that adding physical and social home-like elements into the institutional setting may help actually reduce anxiety on the part of both parent and child. Depending on your specific needs, consider adding cushioned furniture and carpets or rugs to the space.


3. What about acoustics?

The multipurpose area should be acoustically isolated from the other public spaces or classrooms where lots of noise can be distracting. This can get tricky, however, if the space also needs to accommodate productions or microphones. Check out the American National Standard on Classroom Acoustics for more information on noise and reverberation.

4. Does it accommodate technology?

Assembly spaces should be able to accommodate several forms of technology with ample electrical outlets along the perimeter and near any stage platforms. Sound and video production systems should also be available.



Small Performance Space

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