By Design: Academy Learning Commons Puts Community Needs at the Center

“I am honored to have arrived at a time when I can play a role in this important project,” says Academy Principal Gustavo Carrera. “Creating spaces that match our instructional philosophy and approach is something I am passionate about, and I am grateful to our community that is helping to make this building possible.”

Since July, Carrera has been garnering meaningful connections with faculty, students and other stakeholders – acquiring a deep understanding of the community’s unique needs to thoughtfully weigh in on how the new Academy Learning Commons (ALC) will be used when its renovation is completed in 2025.

Carrera believes we are at an inflection point in education. “Cooke was a fantastic building for the time it was built 60 years ago, when learning was very much about the acquisition of knowledge, and then analysis, discussion and articulation of that information,” he notes. “But today’s students no longer need a sage on the stage to share that information. Instead, they need a teacher who is a coach to aid them through the process of acquiring knowledge by themselves.” 

He is a big proponent of having students be co-creators of their educational journey. “They need to acquire the skills to be creative problem solvers, to be able to take risks, to have empathy for others and to be resilient,” he explains. “This project will be an important platform for advancing Punahou’s progressive educational philosophy.”

The state-of-the-art building will offer emerging technology labs, where students can explore artificial intelligence and virtual reality learning tools. What’s more, students will gain access to food technology labs. “Our culinary learning specialist will support this area so that students can enhance their explorations of culture, sustainability and science by thinking about the role that food plays in our society,” Carrera notes. 

In addition to these innovative academic experiences, the building will also serve as a vibrant hub for social life in the Academy. New lānai on all four sides of the building will provide outdoor spaces for groups of students and faculty to work together, with outlets and lighting so they are truly functional seating areas. There will also be ample public spaces for students to display their projects to the community.

“I’m thrilled that we are transforming Cooke into a modern hub that meets the School’s needs for the 21st century and beyond since it will be a flexible space that can adapt to future educational needs,” says Carrera. “It will be a place where the students will have the ability to be collaborators, where they’ll be able to have spaces to dream, discover and showcase their learning.”

Learn more about the Academy Learning Commons project at

(Photo Above): Community is at the heart of the Academy Learning Commons’ design. Students will be able to come together for socializing – and to collaborate on projects. The cutting-edge space will help students become co-creators of their educational journey and attain the skills to be creative problem solvers.

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