2018—West Houston Institute

Houston Community College—West Houston Institute
Architect: HarrisonKornberg Architects

The West Houston Institute (WHI) at Houston Community College (HCC) is an innovation center designed to prepare students for the technological changes that will create huge challenges for our workforce as well as the educational system itself. The WHI was designed to incorporate a wide range of synergistic spaces that can pivot and adapt as new challenges emerge, while at the same time nurturing innovation from both faculty and students to drive change. It incorporates a MakerSpace, a facilitated collaboration area (Collaboratorium), conference center, Digital Media Center, Teaching Innovation Lab, Learning Spaces Institute, advanced natural and computational science labs, experiential STEM teaching.

Design—Star of DistinctionDesign

Campus is designed to facilitate innovation in all of its forms; promotes intersectional thinking by accommodating groups from a broad range of users. The MakerSpace serves as the technological hub and primary collaboration space. It is proximate to the Digital Media Center, which complements the space’s physical resources with digital resources. The conference center and Collaboratorium offer interactive meeting spaces, connected through a range of informal collaboration spaces. The technological infrastructure features ubiquitous computing and wireless.


The facility incorporates a wide range of synergistic spaces that easily adapt as new programs and training challenges emerge, while at the same time nurturing innovation from both faculty and students to drive change. All spaces are designed to be as flexible as possible in order to accommodate shifting programs that emerge from technological change. The design is reconfigurable to meet the needs of diverse and ever-changing user groups.


The facility’s design includes many sustainable principles. The building is organized around a central courtyard which provides views of trees, plants and natural materials and includes shaded sitting areas. The main detention pond is designed as a planted “garden amphitheater” with stepped seating around the perimeter. This space can be used by students for ‘nature breaks’, and serves as a gathering space for larger events. The design also includes a continuation of a Parks bike path through campus, with a shower station in the building, linking previously disconnected paths.


Campus serves a diverse range of users (part of the programming strategy) – to make the environment as flexible as possible. Employs active and experiential learning strategies. Teaching Innovation Lab and Learning Spaces Institute both designed to nurture NextGen teaching skills of faculty through iterative, design-based processes. K-12 faculty engaged from around the region for workshops and outreach. Users of the adjacent Early College High School are closely involved in a range of curricular and programmatic activities.


In 2010, the campus President initiated a series of discussions with stakeholders throughout the community. The creative team facilitated conversations between advisory groups, stakeholders, the project design team and construction team. The team also visited other institutions that employed MakerSpaces, Collabortorias, Digital Commons, collaboration spaces, experiential labs and other advanced teaching and learning spaces. The architects began the design based on extensive programming activities. The owner team was intimately involved throughout the design and construction process.

School Transformation

A first-of-its-kind combination of spaces and programs with intentional design to facilitate innovation, creativity, design thinking, and entrepreneurship. Education increasingly employs more active and experiential learning modalities. However, no single approach has been identified as best to maximize this change. This design explores the margins of this uncertainty and used design-based concepts to capitalize on learning innovations. A “Fellows Academy”, Teaching Innovation Lab and IDEAS Academy help faculty understand and adapt to the changing dynamics. All spaces are designed to be as flexible as possible to accommodate emerging programs stemming from technological change.


Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner