A Step Forward with AUC’s Next 100 Campus Plan: Institutional Survey Results
More research labs, a bigger convention center and building outdoor classrooms are among a few of the suggestions brought forward by the AUC community as part of the AUC: Next 100 Campus Plan survey for the design and construction of the second phase of our New Cairo campus led by international architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle.
As part of AUC’s Next 100 Campus Plan, an institutional-wide survey was conducted in May 2020, asking students, faculty, staff and alumni who graduated within the past two years to share their impressions and ideas for the future of AUC New Cairo and its surrounding neighborhood for the next 100 years. More than 1,000 AUC community members took part in the survey, which was conducted by the Office of Strategy Management and Institutional Effectiveness.
“Much has changed since the outbreak of COVID-19 seven months ago, including the way we work, learn, and socialize,” said Iman Megahed, AVP for digital transformation, Office of Strategy Management and Institutional Effectiveness. “Throughout this unprecedented pandemic, the AUC Next 100 Campus Plan team has continued to think about the future of the University, evolving contemporary ideas about how space is used, and how university campuses might grow in the future.”
Primarily, the campus plan will establish an inclusive framework for addressing short-term and long-term space needs and program aspirations for the University, reflecting the participation and engagement of the entire AUC community to plan for a future that aligns with their goals and visions for the University.
Depictions of AUC New Cairo
Overall, the AUC New Cairo Campus carries different associations in different minds when it comes to design. When asked to choose two descriptive words that come to mind describing it, “unique” took center stage. Other prevailing words included “spaces”, “relaxing”, “innovative”, “impressive”, “elegant”, “old”, and “arabesque.”
With any campus master plan, there are always successful aspects that the community believes should be preserved and reinforced. AUC’s New Cairo Campus was no exception: green/open spaces, unique architecture, walkability and public gatherings were the leading features that the community values most. The results reflected a desire for the campus to remain more than just a workplace or an educational institution, promoting activities where people can engage with one another. That’s in addition to being a model of sustainable development.
When it comes to challenges, academic space needs, student life, climate change, sustainability and connections to the surrounding neighborhood were the main concerns, respectively. The community prefers a stronger connection both a on a micro and macro scale between the campus and its surrounding urban fabric. At the micro-level, respondents discussed that the dispersion of buildings may lead to less interaction across different disciplines and can also result in mobility challenges. On the macro-level, they seek more connection between the campus and the cities of New Cairo and Cairo, programmatically and culturally.
Since the community is the driving factor for how the master plan develops and an immersive experience lies at the core of AUC’s mission, participants were asked what they think would most improve their experience on campus. Almost a quarter selected places to work or study, 16% places to socialize, 16% places to eat and shop, 15% night/weekend activities and 13% places for academic teaching and research.
Overall, the answers suggested a desire for an active 24/7, more diverse, multi-functional environment hosting a range of activities to increase engagement within the AUC community and with Cairo and New Cairo communities at large.
AUC encompasses extensive open spaces, including plazas and gardens. When spending time in a campus open space, the survey reflected that greenery, landscape and shelter from the sun or rain are the main points to consider in designing an open space.
The library was singled out as the idea place for studying and working. When it’s time to enjoy food and beverages, L’Aroma and the AUC Library gardens were the most liked for their presence in an open space with greenery, followed by Quick for its convenience and affordability. Similarly, for leisure, relaxation or socializing, the gardens were the most favored, followed by the fountains.
Campus Access and Student Residences
On-campus student residences were also an area of importance, considering their role in integrating students into the living-learning community. Students highlighted the following factors they look for when choosing accommodation: security and safety; affordability of living on campus; spaces for individual or group study; flexibility of living, such as dorm size and style, and number of residents per unit; and common spaces to gather and socialize.
Non-resident members’ habits were also explored. Typically, 51% of AUC community members drive to get to campus every day, 27% ride a bus or shuttle, 14% carpool or are dropped off, with only a minority walking to campus because they either live in the dorms or nearby. Nearly half of the respondents access campus through Gate 4, while 21% use Gate 5. In other words, the southern side of campus has the highest traffic flow into campus. As for the northern side, Gate 2 is the primary entrance gate.
The choice of preferred entry gate was predominantly based on proximity to the workplace and classes, accounting for nearly half of the total responses, followed by proximity to the buses. Following that, 13% of respondents choose the gate with the most available parking spaces.
In fact, Gate 4 was described as featuring a “strategic location”, due to its nearby access to many different buildings, including the student residences and campus day care. As for Gate 5, it’s preferred for its closeness to commercial activities, including Point 90 mall and its connection to both AUC and public buses. On the other hand, Gate 2 is favored for its scenic garden views and lack of traffic.
However, being on campus didn’t seem to influence how often members visit commercial establishments in New Cairo for shopping, dining, recreation or other purposes. While 28% of respondents are active multiple times per week, 25% rarely spend time in New Cairo when on campus. When they do, Point 90 ranks first in traffic inflow from AUC.
The Campus Plan team alongside the Office of Facilities and Campus Plan Steering Committee have joined forces to identify academic space needs across departments and Schools to better inform long- and near-term planning recommendations.
Similarly, AUC’s Office of Sustainability has been heavily involved in the planning process, exploring and closely examining methods of making future growth environmentally sustainable, especially with respect to transportation, service infrastructure and landscape.
Furthermore, the team has been analyzing what types of research and industries will be paramount in the future through a series of focus groups and interviews with alumni, students, and development partners. In doing so, the objective is to grasp how AUC New Cairo can promote collaboration with existing and future industry innovators to strengthen AUC’s position as a leader in cutting-edge research and teaching.
With the survey results in mind, flexibility is on top of the list of priorities.
“Since the Spring 2020 semester, we have been evaluating how the campus can be more flexible in serving our academic and urban communities, both during COVID and non-COVID times,” elaborated Megahed. “This includes design of landscapes that encourage healthy lifestyles, encompassing promotion of sustainable mobility choices, provision of flexible teaching spaces that can support interactive online and in-person learning interchangeably, and envisioning living spaces that foster a community across diverse members, without compromising safety.”