Education Design (And Beyond) A Q&A With Audrey Metz

Berco Designs has a portfolio of education tables, which have a long history of spanning campuses nationwide. The design-led manufacturing facility in St. Louis, Missouri provides major design opportunities for major design choices. Creating a campus where students belong and feel at home. Berco Designs has helped rethink the future of college communities and the strength is in the numbers. Universities like Washington University, continue to choose Berco tables, bringing a custom design and an active customer service experience within reach. 

Washington University Motto: Strength Through Truth

Often, tables are an afterthought in the design process. The layout of a space is configured and the materials curated. Procuring tables for an active campus takes research and a strong understanding of how students will use them. Audrey Metz, Manager of Furniture and Design for Washington University has chosen Berco Designs for durable tables without compromising aesthetic.

Below, Audrey Metz shares her thoughts on higher education design .

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Berco Designs Anyway table series featuring leveling glides and varying top shapes and heights.
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Crowder Courtyard Washington University School of Law

Q: Can you tell me about where these Berco Designs tables are located on campus and what the space is typically used for? 

A: “Crowder Hall is used as a dining and study area for the Washington University School of Law. The space hosts events every week, so the goal was durable and moveable tables.”

Q: Has the concept of campus design—which is so central to the identity of a historic college such as Wash-U—changed today compared to the past? 

A: “It’s the same in a lot of ways. But the way we use the spaces has morphed over time.”

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“Weil commons was designed for community and collaboration. The space is very open and active with a Berco Designs community table for gatherings,” said Metz.

Q: Has the concept of campus design—which is so central to the identity of a historic college such as Wash-U—changed today compared to the past? 

A: “It’s the same in a lot of ways. But the way we use the spaces has morphed over time.”

Q: During the redesign of the graduate architecture & design studio, Berco Designs provided custom tables made for the specific needs of the architecture students. What would you say they add to that space?

A: “We really needed someone to build what we wanted and I knew Berco Designs had an in-house engineering department dedicated specifically to that. It was convenient to have that kind of back-and-forth communication. Since Berco has that kind of relationship with us, we knew it would be engineered properly.”

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Custom Berco Designs Desks in the Wash-U School of Architecture Graduate Studio.

“The desk design allows architecture students to spread out. The tops are solid surface, so they’re very durable. The students glue models together and the surface allows for more creativity without damaging the furniture. The design was intended to store large materials like foam core, large drafts and other project materials. The students can also provide their own locks for the custom drawer storage.”

Q: What prompted you to opt for the innovative designs and finishes offered by Berco Designs? 

A: “Berco is great about providing any laminate we want. The cherry finish in the law school is very traditional.”

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Berco Designs Encore Community tables in custom widths and heights, Wash-U School of Law.

“The custom heights and widths of the Parsons-style tables in the law school group study, make the space very active and lively, but at the same time, has the traditional wood finish to make the space cohesive.”

Q: How important is it to strike a balance between durability and aesthetics when designing tables for educational spaces? 

A: “Durability is always first and foremost. But, I don’t think you have to sacrifice aesthetics to have durability. In educational spaces, the table has to hold up.”

Q: Classroom and Dining: Are Berco Designs’ tables suitable for both environments? 

A: “Yes, we use Berco tables in diverse environments. In addition to student spaces, we design a ton of admin buildings. The medical campus is full of meeting tables and break rooms. We use Berco Designs for almost all of those uses.”

Q: What’s new for Wash-U?

A: “We are looking at Oasis Berco privacy pods. In the past few months, we’ve noticed it’s more of an option if you want a modular look and want to keep from putting up drywall. We’re seeing more of a need for private spaces.”

Q: How much does well-being and comfort have to do with it? 

A: “People in the design industry talk about well-being a lot. We are constantly researching well-being and design. We see that research and incorporate it internally.”

Audrey Metz

Audry Metz, Manager of Furniture and Design at Washington University, has designed higher education spaces across campus for over 7 years. She specializes in Education Design and her start began at a furniture dealership. In her work, a great deal of attention is paid to safety and requirements, as well as sustainability. Collections of Berco Designs tables help furnish stimulating learning environments for students and work areas for over 10,000 employees on campus.

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