College of Human Ecology, Cornell University


Developing and nurturing student creativity on college campuses starts with giving students a voice in the way they design their own learning.  That was the premise behind the unique collaboration between design students from Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology and architects from the New York City office of IBI Group in designing the Commons area of the University’s new College of Human Ecology building.

The Story Behind the Story

When structural problems forced the University to demolish the existing Human Ecology building in 2005, University leaders decided to re-imagine a new beginning for the College. As part of that new beginning, the IBI Group architects recommended inviting student designers to submit design ideas for the Commons area of the new building.

When the marketing team from IBI Group’s Learning+ division of global education for higher education hired us to produce a video case study about this project, one of the areas they wanted to highlight was the connection between design, creativity and research. Human Ecology focuses on the relationship between humans and their natural, social and built environments, and we needed to show how the architects designed a building that would complement this field of study.

Our guiding question became: How can spaces help to nurture and celebrate creativity? And the answers we got—from students, University leaders, professors, and designers — shaped our story about a warm and welcoming place where people gather to share ideas, and create their futures.

Holly PaigeComment