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Inside Look: Business Schools

Active 24/7, b-school buildings are often a campus within a campus and tend to be the envy of educators in other departments
University Business, February 2015
  • The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan has a variety of interactive learning and study areas built around a Winter Garden. The space can be used for galas, corporate presentations, guest speakers and alumni events. Completed in 2009 for $125 million, the facility also houses a fitness center and a café. Designer: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (New York, N.Y.);  Structural engineer: Thornton Tomasetti (New York, N.Y.); Mechanical and electrical engineer: Cosentini Associates (New York, N.Y.
  • The new Ross School of Business at UMich includes a 500-seat auditorium, 12 tiered classrooms, four flat-floor classrooms and 24 group study spaces. There also several open seating areas around the building for independent study and tables for two or more people to work casually together.
  • McCord Hall at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business has collaborative spaces integrated into and outside classrooms. The 56 six-person team rooms encourage collaboration and facilitate media-enhanced, small group work. In lieu of the traditional stock market ticker tape, large screens throughout the building display real-world data. Designer: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (New York, N.Y.); Consultant: RSP Architects (Minneapolis, Minn.); Structural Engineer: Meyer, Borgman + Johnson, Inc
  • Completed in August 2014, the $38.4 million McCord Hall also makes uses of Arizona’s warm climate to provide students with functional, outdoor gathering spaces.
  • The $60 million expanded interior of Hodge Hall Undergraduate Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business blends modern fixtures and furniture with traditional wood paneling and coffered ceilings. Technology includes an interactive laser beam projector and an interactive legacy wall that share news and achievements of Kelley’s alumni and faculty. Designer: BSA LifeStructures (Indianapolis, Ind.); Project manager: Skillman Corporation (Indianapolis, Ind.) Interior Design: HKS, Inc. (Dallas, Texa
  • Hodge Hall at Indiana U has 16 new classrooms and includes spaces for hands-on learning and research. A research and practice lab for sales majors is equipped with role-play rooms and digital technology to record, store and share recordings.
  • Farrell Hall, opened in November 2013, is the new home of North Carolina’s Wake Forest University School of Business. Designed to streamline and inspire student collaboration and faculty-student interaction, the $55 million building blends state-of-the-art technology, flexible classrooms and meeting spaces and dedicated social areas. Designer: Robert A.M. Stern Architects (New York, N.Y.); Furniture: Knoll Inc. (New York, N.Y.)
  • At the heart of Farrell Hall is the Founders Living Room, a three-story, 8,500-square-foot space where students, faculty and staff can gather, study, brainstorm and socialize. Farrell Hall also has 18 classrooms, a 400-seat auditorium and dedicated meeting rooms and collaboration spaces on all levels.
  • Along with overall building enhancements, a 169-seat theatre with a historic Shakespearean mural was restored as part of the $8 million renovation of the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business. The theater is used for small lectures, speakers series and film screenings. Renovation Architect: Slaterpaull Architects (Denver)
  • Reopened in April 2014, U of Denver’s business school features technology-rich work areas, wireless connectivity, quiet study rooms and gathering spaces that encourage collaboration. The “Daniels Seminar Spaces” are  11 small-to-medium-sized classrooms with a capacity of 15 to 38 students each.
  • The $8 million School of Business Building at Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania was designed to reflect a corporate atmosphere that students will encounter in the workplace.  Designer: Celli-Flynn Brennan (Pittsburgh, Pa.); General contractor: P.J. Dick (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Robert Morris’ b-school opened in August 2011 and includes a trading floor and a telepresence center. A classroom full of “Bloomberg station”computers provides students with relevant financial data through news, analytics, communications, charts and other reporting services. There is also an Interactive Learning Module touchscreen wall with news about global financial markets.
  • After completing about $75,000 of renovations in September 2014,  The Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at New York’s Siena College combines traditional teaching methods with high technology to provide a well-rounded learning experience.  Architect: McKinney MacDonald Architects, LLC (Latham, N.Y.); Construction: Bette Cring Construction Group (Latham, NY); Furniture: Accent Furniture (Albany, NY)

There’s an old joke about business schools, which see more than their share of facility upgrades: As soon as the b-school vacates its old quarters to move into a new building, every other school in the university is vying for the vacant space.

The attractions are many. There are the technology-rich, active learning environments designed to feel welcoming and bright at any hour of the day. Innovation workshops provide “messy study” areas, and multiple gathering spaces provide a venue for everything from a small event to a gala reception.

And lest anyone need to go elsewhere to grab a bite or have food brought in for a formal affair, there are multiple dining options and catering facilities. B-school students may well have their own fitness center on site, too.

“You need a fully functioning business school environment. They have to eat there, have quiet study there, have group discussions there, go to events to hear speakers there—plus go to class,” says architect Jill Lerner, who has been part of at least 10 b-school projects led by New York City-based Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.

Group study spaces are key. In planning, her team will ask what percentage of students will be in the building at a given time and need to work in groups. “We’ve heard numbers like 50 percent, or 75 percent,” she says, adding that business schools are more often thought of as campuses themselves than as single buildings.

These campuses may have their own research libraries and separate career centers. Alumni relations and development staff are on hand to greet corporate leaders and other influential guests.

“With all of our business schools, one thing that continues to be a very important need is building a sense of community among students and faculty,” Lerner says. “There is a need for face-to-face coming together, and business schools excel in that.”

As Lerner’s colleague, Susan Lowance, a director at KPF, puts it: Business schools “tend to be the most outward-focused entity on campus. There’s no ivory tower about them.”

Executives are there for one-time speaking engagements and to teach courses as adjuncts. They also bring real-life business challenges for students to solve in group-project work. Or, these business leaders may be students themselves in executive education or part-time MBA programs.

Not surprisingly, the constant access and activity leave deep marks on the school. With all of the interaction these schools have with the business community, Lowance says, “the impact of the changing workplace has shown up on the business school campus more quickly than it has in other areas.”

And with broadcast studios in many b-school buildings, it’s not just about inviting those from outside in, but also about sharing. Faculty and students, says Lerner, “want to put their material out for consumption.”