Mercyhurst University

You are here

Interior architecture prof creates one-of-a-kind spaces

Thursday, November 16, 2017

First it was the student union at Mercyhurst North East, an eye-popping venue designed to motivate and spur creativity among students.

Created by Keyman Asefi, a faculty member in Mercyhurst University’s Department of Interior Architecture and Design, the union’s renovation elicited oohs and ahhs from literally everyone when it opened last month.

Now, Asefi is tackling a new project, this one on the Erie campus. Today, marks the demolition of more than 8,000 square feet on the ground level of Hammermill Library, where the university’s new cybersecurity lab and Network Operations Center will be housed. The new facilities, funded with a $1 million investment from Cleveland-based technology company MCPc, will augment programs in cyber and data analytics offered by the Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences.

Asefi believes our surroundings affect the way we think. “You can’t teach creativity in a non-creative environment,” he insisted. “You have to practice in an innovative space. The spaces where you work or study have an impact on you.”

His plans call for clean lines and sharp, often unexpected, angles. Perhaps most striking is the entrance, where strips of built-in LED lights span the deep blue walls to create striking patterns.

And don’t expect all walls and ceilings to meet at standard right angles.

TVs, monitors, clocks and lights don’t hang on the white aluminum paneled walls – they’re built in. Everything in the lab is custom-designed and specially built.

In the classroom area, he created five stations where student teams can collaborate on projects. Instead of the omnipresent white board, he provided glass panels where they can record their progress.

“If our goal is to send students out into the cybersecurity world, why not bring real-work operations into our space here? Why not give our students that kind of experience?” Asefi asked.

Asefi has been working closely with Vice President for External Relations and Advancement Cal Pifer, who believes wholeheartedly in the unique environment that will be taking shape in the coming months.

“As Mercyhurst Univesity engages more and more in collaborations with businesses, in this case, MCPc, it is important to create living labs that push the boundaries of learning and prompt conversations among students that drive them to explore and discover,” Pifer said. “We feel confident that there is not another university cyber facility in the country that resembles our space. We utilized several large cyber corporations and defense contractors for design inspiration. The final product creates an unparalleled value proposition for our current students as well as future students. Simply put, our cyber facility is nationally unique and distinctive.”

Meanwhile, Asefi confidently predicts that students won’t show up in this lab wearing shorts and flip-flops. “They’re going to dress up because their environment is dressed up.”