Space Odyssey

Emory's director of planning and interior design asks: 'What does that building want to be?'

Thinking Ahead: Jo Lamb's team designs spaces that work for those who use them today, while preparing them for the needs of the future.
Kay Hinton

When Jo Lamb makes a plan, you can be sure of at least a couple of things.

One, she and her team in the Office of Planning, Design, and Construction will not only listen to what you want, they’re going to help figure out what you need and how to make it happen. And more important, no one is going to come along in twenty years and wonder what they were thinking.

A civil engineer by training, Lamb interned at a structural design firm in New York before becoming a project manager at Columbia University, her alma mater, where she discovered she enjoyed the challenge of creating the best spaces for learning, teaching, and operating a university at peak efficiency.

At Emory, Lamb and her team are key collaborators in the university’s effort to create a master planning framework that will map out a strategy for new spaces and renovations into the future.

“This sets up our ability to design spaces based on a strategic plan that can evolve with changes over time,” says Lamb. “It really is about setting Emory up for success in the future.”

Lamb’s team includes four campus planners who are registered architects, four interior designers, two graphic designers, and a landscape architect. The master planning framework will be dependent on the university’s new strategic plan, which will be unveiled later this year.

“Once we know where Emory is headed, how many people we have, and where the gap is in needed space, that will lay out how we get from where we are to where we need to be, but not compromising what comes in the future,” Lamb says.

Most projects come to the team’s off ice in Campus Services when departments find themselves either out of space or in a space that isn’t meeting their needs.

“Historically people have fought for their space. They say, ‘This is the space I have, and I want to put this many people in it,’” Lamb says. “What we are trying to do now is to say, ‘What does that building want to be?’ and then use it related to how the space can best be utilized. It is better to use that space in the most efficient way possible than throw a lot of money at a project to force it to do what we want it to do.”

Working with Emory clients has benefits. “Everyone sees the big picture and wants to know how they can use their resources better,” Lamb says.
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