New Albany High School Uses Creative Multipurpose Room Design to Maximize its Space
- 22nd June 2020
- Anthony Bowie
When New Albany High School got the opportunity to transform its existing media center into a multipurpose space, it immediately surveyed all of its stakeholders to get the feedback it would then use to develop the new center. Located in New Albany, Ind., the school asked what the current space was lacking, what gaps needed to be filled, and what its stakeholders would love to see in the new space if money and space constraints weren’t issues.
“We wanted to know what would be on their wish lists if they had the chance to remodel the space perfectly,” said Dr. Michelle Ginkins, Principal of the school, which has 1,850 students in grades 9-12. From that exercise, New Albany High School came up with a plan to rebuild its media center and open up a common area for a new theater.
Once the required district referendum passed, the school hit the ground running with its renovation project, which included repositioning and rebuilding its library. A new common area also went under construction that doubles as additional cafeteria space.
Within that space, all furnishings are moveable, including the library’s bookcases. This makes the area extremely modular and able to accommodate a wide range of activities. “Our former media center is now a common area that our senior students use during lunchtime to eat and to also meet with their senior counselors,” said Ginkins. The multipurpose space is also used for theater events, meetings, and community gatherings.
Albany High School worked with MiEN to outfit this innovative new space with modern, flexible furniture and other elements. “In MiEN, we were able to get furniture and everything else we needed to meet the needs of our users from a single source,” said Ginkins. “Having a single point person handle the whole project helped ensure a very smooth process.”
Teachers also use the space for individual classes. “The change of venue sparks engagement and out-of-the-box thinking,” said Ginkins, who also uses the common area for personnel interviews and staff meetings.
“The design and the furniture itself has really worked out well for us because in a school, the more multipurpose an area can be, the better,” she said. “We can move the furniture around, yet it’s high quality enough that it stays put if you don’t want it moved around.”
As part the renovation process, MiEN’s design team helped the school balance out its colors (red and black) in a way that blended well in its newly-renovated space. “I think we did a good job of utilizing our school colors,” said Ginkins, “but we also toned it down by making our tables, walls, and countertops in lighter shades.”
Albany High School’s new multipurpose space also incorporates some restaurant-style and wood pieces that complement the overall design. “We found a good balance of school spirit,” she said, “while still trying to make the space look classy and higher-end.”
To schools that are preparing for a similar renovation project, Ginkins suggests reviewing and sharing design plans with stakeholders at various stages of the process. That way, the same individuals who gave their initial input for the design-build can watch it come to life and, if needed, point out any areas of concern. Ginkins also tells other principals to stay completely informed throughout the entire process, but to avoid getting overwhelmed by not trying to micromanage every single aspect of the renovation.
“I encouraged others to come up with the initial ideas and then shepherd them through to completion,” said Ginkins. “By putting that trust in someone to start the original vision, and then going off that, I avoided having to start at the bottom and plan every detail myself.”