Mobile educational spaces: from Chaska’s Field of Dreams to Zaha’s nomad structure

The blurring of institutional boundaries via the establishment of international joint and dual/double degree programs, the opening up of branch campuses, the creation of hybrid spaces (of an interdisciplinary and a public/private nature), the operation of base campus affiliated overseas colleges, invitations to open up overseas bases within the confines of another campus, and the like, are but signs that higher education is becoming a very unsettled sector. Staid and conservative for the most, change is underway, and for a wide variety of reasons.

edcampus.jpgEducation Futuresprofile of “EdCampus” in Chaska, Minnesota, reinforces this point. Their informative entry, which draws upon a local Minnesotan newspaper, highlights a new university campus owned by one company, but associated with no particular university. As the source newspaper article puts it:

The novelty lies in the “Field of Dreams” approach of the company developing the EdCampus: If you build it, they will come.

The company plans to erect classrooms as shells, line up higher education institutions as tenants to fill them, then customize the rooms for satellite classes or lectures offered by as many colleges and universities as it can line up.

“They could lease space to anyone from Harvard to North Dakota State,” Chaska Mayor Gary Van Eyll said.

And the Chaska Herald newspaper writes that:

“EdCampus Twin Cities,” as it is being called, will “leverage the power of combining dynamic students from diverse institutions, backgrounds and disciplines into a single campus – outfitted with the best available technology, customizable classroom space, and student-centric services,” according to promotional material….

The project is estimated to cost $88 million to build. It would include 125 “custom classroom environments” spread across 225,000 square feet. An additional 115,000 square feet would provide space for student services, retail, corporate training spaces, lecture space and administrative offices.

“It will have everything a college campus would have,” said Pokorney. “But no football team.”

When complete, EdCampus could serve up to 6,500 students in addition to employing 200 professional and support staff. It is estimated that EdCampus could bring in nearly $100 million in annual revenues.

As Education Futures notes, this model negates the territorial imperative associated with most universities, for even the most global of universities still devotes a significant amount of effort to enhancing developmental ties to the local community. In this case, though, this is likely to be a mere service centre; a knowledge space akin to a motorway (freeway) rest stop for commuter students eager to acquire degrees, while dropping a few dollars here and there (“annual revenues”?) via consumption practices, and some streams of property tax income.

If this model can turn a higher education system on its head, then perhaps future scenarios will see universities adopting the contemporary mobile art container model currently on offer in Hong Kong. The design intelligentsia’s favorite architect – Zaha Hadid – has created a large mobile art complex (web cam shots below at dawn on 26 March) that is being moved between Hong Kong, London, New York, Moscow, and Paris.


This travelling pavilion houses an art exhibition made up of the work of 20 artists. A nomadic structure moving across global space; a museum that travels; innovative space for the the transmission of ideas and the cultivation of knowledge. Will the day come when we see a Zaha Hadid-designed mobile university campus, on permanent move between cities around the world, resplendent in its role as a space for the production of ever more global forms of knowledge and subjectivities? Far fetched, to be sure, and a quality assurance nightmare, but who would have thought “EdCampus” would ever be dreamt up in the Fargoesque landscape of Minnesota?!

Kris Olds

2 thoughts on “Mobile educational spaces: from Chaska’s Field of Dreams to Zaha’s nomad structure

  1. Pingback: Cisco, KAUST, and Microsoft: hybrid offerings for global higher ed « GlobalHigherEd

  2. Pingback: France invents the “Pop-Up Campus” | Registrarism

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