Heaton Family Leaning Commons
Heaton Family Leaning Commons
Design Goals

The client’s vision for the Heaton Family Learning Commons was to develop an active and vibrant resource hub for students and for the space itself to energize, excite, and embody a love for learning. Working hand-in-hand with the owner, we identified four primary design challenges and formed our approach around these. In summary, these challenges were: lack of natural daylighting, lack of definitive sense of arrival, sterile and uninspiring furnishings, and lack of proper circulation between floors.




24,380 sf


Butler, PA


Design Architect + Interior Architecture


Library book stacks, collaborative and flexible meeting / classrooms, computer labs, interactive flat wall panels, dedicated large and small flex spaces, a video / audio recording studio, a shared distance learning broadcast room, a focal information kiosk, and a resource desk,  integrated cafe and outdoor patio.

It has been a little over a year since the dedication and opening of The Heaton, I continue to be amazed as to how the facility has changed the culture here on our main campus. The vision for the facility that I shared with Mr. Heaton a few years back has played out better than I could have ever imagined.

– Dr. Nick Neupauer, BC3 President

A Reinvigoration

Project Mission – The project consisted of a facility re-envisioning from an under-utilized and outdated library environment into a forward-thinking, flexible library of the future which acts as an Intellectual and social hub for the campus and outward community. The renovation encompassed all 22,380 square feet on both floors of the existing facility as well as an iconic entry tower, elevated terrace, and illuminated obelisk, creating a new exterior identity.

Sense of Arrival – One of the more drastic modifications to the existing building was to create a 30’x30’ atrium opening on the second floor. This allowed for visual and physical interactions between the more social/active second-floor space with the resource/educational first-floor space. A glass guardrail at the opening and a glass valence at the ceiling worked together to define a “room within a room” that existed in the atrium space. Illuminated by the new skylight and perimeter LED lighting, the result of this design strategy was a dramatic expression of light, color, and reflection that defined the main entrance.

Activating Circulation – Rather than approaching the vertical circulation in a traditional utilitarian manner, the strategy was to see it as a design opportunity to make it more experiential. From the historic oak grove to the front door, the vertical circulation was designed to double as a forum stair and experiential device. Both interior and exterior stairs were activated by creating opportunities for occupants to relax, socialize, or study. Stair landings act as study areas, which allow good dynamic views to surrounding spaces. Tech Bars also allow for views to the study areas.

Mind + Body Wellness

Daylighting and Views – The existing building’s clerestory windows offered minimum daylighting and no views to the adjacent vibrant campus grove. The proposed design maximizes daylighting and views on the south and west facades thereby creating a link between the activities taking place inside the learning center and the energy of the campus grove. To further this goal, an existing 20’x20’ skylight that had been concealed was replaced and reinstated. The result was a light-filled interior that through the use of a variety of colors and textures became a destination for formal and informal learning.

New Central Atrium – Changes to the structure that went beyond cosmetic, was the opening of a 16’ x 16’ pyramid skylight that allows natural light to penetrate into the library, creating a new central atrium in the process. This floor opening facilitates vertical circulation, visual connectedness between floors and spaces, and access to natural light. The new wood cladding was added as an exterior facade improvement to unify the library with the rest of the campus. In addition, new storefront glazing was inserted on the south and east facades. Finally, a new main entrance point was provided along the existing facade to capture natural circulation paths.

Flexibility for the Future

Borrowing this approach from contemporary office design, the design objective was to avoid purpose-built spaces, but instead design a variety of flexible environments that could be reconfigured or adapted to diverse activities, learning styles, and group sizes. The design offers a gradient of informal work/study spaces including café, tech bars, and lounges to the more formal study rooms, classrooms, and media room.

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