Southeast Community College Academic Excellence Center honored with Architect Magazine Award

“Taking what I’m sure was a challenging budget and elevating the community college experience to this level is very impressive.” —Susan T. Rodriguez, FAIA


Visually inspired by the agrarian vernacular of its Beatrice, Neb., locale, the 52,000-square-foot Academic Excellence Center for Southeast Community College stems from the institution’s desire to enhance the student experience on campus by providing a welcoming, light-filled place to study and learn, converse and commune with peers, and interact with faculty through both formal and spontaneous meetings. Building community for its academic population is a major goal for the college, and the center is a step in a larger expansion plan to achieve it.

Designed in a partnership between Kansas City, Mo.–based Multistudio and Omaha-based BVH Architecture, the three-story structure is programmatically driven and consists of classrooms, laboratories, and multipurpose spaces. Thus, the design centers around the building’s main circulation, a glass curtain wall–enclosed communal spine that spans the center’s length and provides ample opportunities for social interactions, whether between classes or at campus gatherings.

Decorated with movable furniture and brightly daylit, this wide passage also creates informal study areas. From the outside, a scrim wall superstructure fronts this transparent architectural element, creating a space for exterior circulation between the two and a dramatic façade effect that references metal grain silos and light filtering through a barn’s wooden slats. It also helps offset glare and heat gain, reducing the building’s overall energy use.

— Elizabeth Fazzare, Architect Magazine’s 2023 Architecture & Interiors Awards Issue

February 09, 2023

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