Academic Rotunda Opens at UConn Health

CENTERBROOK, Conn. – A remarkable new kind of learning space designed by Centerbrook Architects & Planners has opened at UConn Health.

The space is a 3,800-square-foot “Academic Rotunda” – in plan a circle with a 75-foot diameter – that introduces interactive, team-based learning to medical education for UConn Health’s School of Medicine and School of Dental Medicine in Farmington, Connecticut.

"What makes this design distinct is that instead of the passive lecture format of centuries past, students with or without faculty can sit at round tables in groups and actively interact among themselves while a facilitator or content expert can clarify difficult concepts via a spectacular array of audiovisual technology,” said Centerbrook partner and project architect Chad Floyd, FAIA.

“This new format approximates the way medical professionals actually consult with each other in hospitals to solve complex problems. What makes it work is our use of giant 4K projector screens, advanced acoustic controls and lighting effects borrowed from years of experience designing theaters,” Floyd added.

The Rotunda, which accommodates up to 240 students at a time, is the centerpiece of Centerbrook’s new Academic Entrance Building, which also features group study rooms arrayed around the interactive space for use either as intimate classrooms or conference breakout spaces. Circulation lounges surrounding the Rotunda are equipped for more informal study.

“Completing the Academic Addition is another significant milestone in the Bioscience Connecticut construction program,” said UConn Health Associate Vice President Thomas Trutter, AIA. “The addition accomplishes several important objectives including providing classroom space for growing the medical and dental school class sizes, providing active learning classroom space to support curriculum changes, and it provides a new strengthened image for the Academic Entrance of the UConn Health Main Building.”

Trutter added, “I am confident that the addition and the space it created will have a very positive impact on the education mission of UConn Health for years to come.”

Implementation of Centerbrook’s 2011 Master Plan for the UConn Health academic building continues with renovation of 45,000 square feet of the existing facility, to be complete in January 2017.

“The renovation involves reorganizing and relocating existing programs and departments proximate to the new Academic Rotunda,” said Centerbrook associate and project manager David O’Connor, AIA. “The new layout will promote workflow among faculty and staff and provide a variety of co-working opportunities for students via newly-created study lounges.”

The renovation also will introduce innovations such as “virtual” gross anatomy technology that allows students to gain dissection experience through the use of computer simulation.

Centerbrook is working with construction manager Skanska on both phases.

The Academic Entrance and renovations for the School of Medicine and Dental Medicine is one of three recent projects on the UConn Health campus that Centerbrook has been associated with as part of the Bioscience Connecticut initiative. Centerbrook also designed the Jackson Laboratory which opened in 2014 and the 303,000 square foot UConn Health Outpatient Pavilion and Garage that came online in 2015.

Jackson Lab and the Outpatient Pavilion have garnered a combined six design awards.