Honorable Mention - Excellence in Architecture for a New Building

Southeast Community College

Academic Excellence Center
Southeast Community College - Academic Excellence Center
Jury Comments
““. . . a beautiful example of how clear programmatic focus can result in special architecture . . . great manipulation of scale, detail, and simplicity . . . very approachable, layered, honors the human scale . . . relates very well to the site . . .””


    • Site – 1.2 acres / 52,272 sq ft; Building – 51,710 gsf / 26,609 nsf
    • Inside and out, the center celebrates its local context by referencing the colors, textures, patterns, and materials found in its agrarian setting.
    • Exterior scrim system passively controls daylight and frames exterior spaces.
    • Iterative and comprehensive energy, daylighting, and parametric modeling were used to help make decisions.
    • An interior circulation spine acts as a main “pedestrian street” from which “cul-de-sacs” connect classrooms, studios, and offices.
    • Systems and assemblies were carefully designed to promote environmental stewardship.
    • The project meets the 2030 Building Challenge, meeting a 70% energy reduction target (in 2019) compared to projects of similar type and climate.


In 2016, under the guidance of a new president, Southeast Community College went through a new strategic planning process that led to a facilities master plan for each of their three main campus locations. Phase one was launched in 2018, calling for one new building to be built on each campus. The Beatrice Campus of Southeast Community College was an old private college built in 1965 and was ready for a complete transformation.

The project chosen for Beatrice Campus was a building that could be used by a number of disciplines on campus. The building would be the cornerstone of a revitalization master plan and set the design stage for future academic classroom buildings. With ambitions to create a world-class educational facility with state-of-the-art labs, studios, offices, and progressive learning spaces, the college needed a vision for a center that would match their aspirations. The design challenge was to meet and exceed the college’s design standards and fit the rural community setting.

Attempting to address one of the commuter college’s biggest challenges—creating place—the project was approached from the student experience out, letting educational functionality and interactivity drive its design. Creating community within a setting where students come and go directly from and to their car is often not a part of the learning experience. To achieve this, the “role” of public space was redefined, merging program with traditional circulation space while focusing on the broader student experience. The result of this effort is creating space for community—leveraging design to “slow down” the student experience by expanding the resources and people to which each student has access in this critical moment between car-classroom-car.

Leveraging a process that focused on creating community produced a new model for building programming that challenges the idea that all learning needs to reside within a classroom’s four walls. The design concept for this new building centered around what students and faculty need from a learning environment: flexible classrooms, abundant daylight, and dynamic gathering spaces to share ideas. The rigorous yet simple organization of program spaces intentionally brings together office and support spaces with classrooms, promoting student-teacher collaboration. Primary learning environments are located on the upper floors within five “building blocks” with a larger multifunction and public spaces anchoring the ground floor.

Project Team

Gould Evans; BVH Architecture; Hausmann Construction