Academic Architecture and Brand Perception

Academic architecture is perhaps one of the areas of architectural design where the connection between design elements and identity is most readily identifiable. Consider the iconic images of Western academia: white columns adorning red brick buildings, high ceilings, long corridors, and steep staircases leading to halls of learning.

university student center interior

Historically, academia has seen trends in architectural design. A once-common style for academic institutions like libraries and museums is the Beaux-Arts style, a classical architectural approach that combines Greek, Roman, and Renaissance influences. Popular in the United States in the late 19th century, Beaux-Arts elements like stone exteriors and decor featuring flowers and sculptures mark many academic institutions erected during this time.

As the 19th century moved into the 20th century, Collegiate Gothic became the primary style for college campuses, and some of this influence remains present today. This style is marked by a rectangular plan that uses many archways and tall elements of design.

Today’s academic architecture is as eclectic as the institutions themselves. Academic architecture continues its intricacies given that many buildings exist as part of a larger campus. Whether it’s a high school or college, many academic institutions have multiple buildings that come together to form a cohesive whole. Furthermore, these buildings can serve drastically different functions: some function as living spaces for students, others are places solely for classrooms, and still others act as common areas for dining and socializing. On a modern campus, many buildings serve multiple functions simultaneously. When considering academic architectural designs, it is important to consider multiple elements.

Function of the Space 

A well-designed academic space should take into consideration its primary educational purpose. Sometimes, the design itself can have an impact on intellectual capacity. It is certainly worthwhile to consider how the space will be used and make sure that the design reflects that functionality. Open spaces for fluid classroom design, plenty of windows for natural lighting, and easily navigable floor plans are all elements that might reflect well on an educational space.


As academic campuses grow and change, buildings will be erected at different times or with varying design in mind. Branching out into more modern designs as new spaces are added can help keep the campus fresh and exciting, but cohesion with existing buildings will help streamline the brand and maintain a sense of overall belonging with the school’s identity. Merging the two is a challenging but rewarding design effort.

Connection and Achievement

Students want to feel like they can accomplish something grand when they undergo rigorous study, and the space they inhabit is part of that overall impression. An academic building should exemplify the school’s sense of identity and provide a place for learning and growth. Whether that is accomplished through classical design elements or embracing contemporary styles, the building should evoke a sense of value and success. When a space is created with form and function in mind, academic designs demonstrate limitless possibilities.