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student placing card on 3 d map of u h manoa

An extreme makeover is in the works for outdoor areas around student housing at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and student residents are playing a key role in the design of the project, tentatively scheduled to be completed by fall 2026. The project design is incorporating recommendations made by student residents during an interactive workshop that included:

hand reaching for cards with outdoor renovation suggestions

  • Outdoor study spaces, such as study gardens, group study workspaces and individual studyUH pods to increase opportunities for outdoor studying.
  • Food options, possibly including food trucks, farmers markets and coffee kiosks.
  • Activity spaces, such as outdoor gyms and game and sports courts.
  • Event gathering locations for student residents and Resident Assistants to host social events.

The students who attended say they really appreciated the interactive workshop.

“I enjoy the fact that the campus is beginning to involve students in their own living experience,” said student resident Katherine Sewell. “As a second-year student, I am excited to see the benefits of our suggestions and the future of our campus, yielded by student engagement.”

“It was a fun and interactive event that felt really welcoming to students’ opinions and is something I think the school could really benefit from,” said student resident Jayden Uowolo. “The campus is full of big colleges that can be hard to navigate, and putting in small things like study areas, gardens and so many other cool ideas would be great for students here at Mānoa.”

The interactive workshop was organized by the Campus Design Lab, an initiative of the Office of Planning & Spatial Experience (OPSE) and staffed by student project assistants from the UH Community Design Center (UHCDC).

“There’s so much outdoor space on campus that could be more effectively utilized by students if designed in the right way, and this interactive process is the best way for students to tell and show us what they would like,” said OPSE Director Brian Strawn. “Now we have the information to make these outdoor spaces more practical for the students who are spending the most time on campus.”

Visualizing ideal outdoor spaces

close up of 3 d map of hale wainani and cards

The team set up information kiosks between Gateway House and Frear Hall with a 3D campus map of the area from Wainani Towers to Johnson Hall on Dole Street, along with cards that represented furniture, food venues and different activities, and blank cards so students could write in suggestions. The students then took turns placing the cards on the interactive map in a process that allowed them to visualize their ideal outdoor spaces, which was then documented by the Campus Design Lab team. The architecture students who staffed the workshop say it was a valuable experience.

“As a fourth-year architecture student, I am always trying to consider different ways someone may interact with a space, especially because everyone brings with them a variety of experiences,” said Hunter-Bailey Kaimikaua, a UHCDC student project assistant. “This outreach activity helped me to hear the wants and needs of students, such as the desire for study spaces closer to the dorms and other spaces to spend time with friends. UH is a diverse campus, and I hope to see that accommodated in future design considerations.”

The outdoor area makeover is just one of the many improvement projects at UH Mānoa student housing since May 2023. The projects include an upcoming renovation of the public spaces at the Hale Aloha Towers, the installation of water filling stations and much more, including long range plans for the facilities.

students gathering to place cards on 3 d map

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