At the heart of the mission of the nationally ranked Hankamer School of Business lies a desire to honor traditional values and social responsibility while being a nexus for innovation and future-thinking. Negotiating this balance provided the foundation for the design of the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation. The project was guided by eight fundamental principles: community, collaboration, flexibility, efficiency, sustainability, technology, heritage, and innovation.
Building upon these, a core group of representatives from the business school that included faculty and administrators wanted to create a place that students could use beyond classroom time, fostering community and creating learning opportunities outside of the classroom. They worked closely with the design team, ensuring the needs of various departments, faculty, and students were met. To facilitate the process, the design team benchmarked other business schools from around the country and conducted charrettes with business school representatives. As a result the building is organized around a central atrium which functions like a town center, connecting multiple programming components such as faculty offices, classrooms, and conference rooms. It also serves as the link to the new conference center and auditorium¬ creating the impression of a “campus within a campus.”
The design team created full-scale mock-ups of proposed learning environments within the business school’s existing facilities. Classes were taught within the mock-ups, providing the design team with direct feedback from students and faculty. As a result, the classrooms can be considered “white box theaters” that offer the flexibility to support a wide variety of activities as well as adaptability over time. Technology is integrated in a way to provide new opportunities for learning and is easily accessible so that it can easily be upgraded.
The Business School recognized that many higher education institutions appear very traditional, which contrasts with the working environments most of their graduates would go on to. Flexibility and diversity of spaces were fundamental qualities needed to create a 21st-century learning environment. Faculty offices are private but interconnected with glass walls. Meeting rooms can convert from public to private; public meeting spaces allow for incidental interactions; and furniture in open public spaces invites conversation. This combined with the wide variety of new technology has essentially created a laboratory for teaching and learning.
Daylighting is integral to the design. Light scoops in the atrium roof provide diffuse daylight into the building core, with baffles angled to create optimal lighting as sun angles change. Each level in the atrium gradually steps back to allow light to penetrate to lower levels. Glass stairs transmit light from the third to first floor. Materials along vertical surfaces, such as light-colored wood, were selected to reflect light. Faculty offices are located around the perimeter and feature ample glazing. Because a darker environment is needed due to use of digital screens, classrooms are located deeper in the interior. The project is targeted LEED Gold.
Balancing heritage with innovation, the interior of the building reflects a light-filled 21st-century workplace while the exterior’s red brick facade reflects the university’s traditional neo-Georgian architecture, establishing cohesion within the campus through scale, materiality, and proportion.