Designed by RSC Architects, a state-of-the-art media center and student lounge has opened at Essex Community College’s main campus in downtown Newark. The renovated 18,800-square-foot “Information Commons” has 140 computer workstations, seven classrooms, breakout rooms, open lounges and a computer lab, creating an atmosphere meant to encourage collaboration, creativity and relaxation. — All photos courtesy: Kate Glicksberg and RSC Architects
By Joshua Burd
A library at the Essex County College campus in Newark is reopening this month as a modern media center and student lounge, following a project designed by an area architecture firm.
The firm, RSC Architects, said it oversaw the $4 million project to renovate the 18,800-square-foot space. The newly delivered facility features 140 computer workstations, seven classrooms, breakout rooms, open lounges and a computer lab, creating an atmosphere that encourages collaboration, creativity and relaxation.
“We saw an opportunity here to create a space that provides more than a place to study; it provides inspiration and serenity at the same time,” said Dr. Joyce Wilson Harley, vice president of administration and finance for Essex County College. “Having an open space with a forward-thinking design encourages our students to do their best work while the incorporation of natural elements creates an interesting and engaging setting.”
RSC said the space, known as Information Commons, includes natural design elements such as a living wall and a curved water wall meant to contrast the bustling urban environment of the campus. The water wall uses synthetic oil between two pieces of glass to create the look of flowing water in the middle of the media center, while the living wall features regenerative plants maintained by an automated watering system and campus staff.
“Our design combines the concept of a media center with a student lounge,” said Kenneth Mihalik, project manager for RSC Architects. “We used wooden accents and plenty of natural light to create a peaceful open area so students can come here to relax, recharge and refocus.
“Classes can put students under a lot of pressure, and they need a place to de-stress. We brought in organic elements to create a sense of calm within an urban cityscape.”
The year-long project transformed the decades-old library into an open space that includes meeting areas, breakout rooms and information kiosks, the Hackensack-based firm said in a news release. Existing tall stacks and partition walls were removed to promote collaboration and cooperation between students, faculty and staff.
RSC also brought in subdued blue carpeting with contemporary furniture cast against wood paneling and glass partitions to enhance the tranquility of the environment.
The new facility will service Essex County College’s main campus in Newark, which covers three city blocks in the city’s University Heights section. It replaces the former Martin Luther King Jr. Media Center and is located on the fourth floor of the Zachary Yamba building.