01 Sep 2014


How HBS tradition inspires the design of a next-generation academic environment
by Deborah Blagg

Workers construct the Weeks Bridge; the HBS campus takes shape

In the foreground of this fall 1926 photo, workers construct the Weeks Bridge; in the distance, the HBS campus takes shape (Harvard University Property Information Resource Center)

Except for the brief reign of commencement mortarboards, hard hats were the favored headgear at HBS this summer, as construction crews made steady progress on the most dramatic campus transformation in the last decade. On the former site of Kresge Hall, giant cranes moved steel girders into place as part of the construction of the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center [see map], a new Executive Education gateway facility with a 2016 completion date. That project broke ground in April, just four months after the doors opened on Tata Hall [2], its neighbor to the east. To the north, along a sidewalk bordered by green-draped construction fencing, Baker Hall is getting an extensive overhaul and a new name. Interior, exterior, and systems renovations are scheduled for completion in 2015, when the residence hall will reopen as Esteves Hall.

The revitalized Executive Education quadrant and the recently announced Klarman Hall convening center are key elements of an ambitious campus master planning effort—one driven by practical, strategic goals developed to support curriculum innovations. “One of the things that makes this a truly special place is that our residential campus is an integral aspect of the School’s unparalleled educational experience,” says Dean Nitin Nohria. “We are taking great care to build an exceptional environment for research and teaching in the 21st century.”

How does HBS plan for the management education needs of the next generation? Ironically, it looks back—relying on a School maxim that is nearly 90 years old.

Chao Center construction (Architects of Group Genius)

Bricks and Books

HBS chief of operations Andy O’Brien is the person charged with coordinating the School’s campus plan, a daunting job that involves everything from securing building permits and keeping construction on schedule to ensuring that new and renovated buildings function as expected and are maintained within budget. In his office in Shad Hall, O’Brien takes time out from his daily campus rounds to explain the new master plan’s historic context. Referring to drawings that show the progression from the 1925 McKim, Mead & White footprint for the first residential business school in America to an array of HBS projects slated for completion by 2023, he emphasizes the importance of continuity and symmetry.

“When the first buildings took shape along the curve of the Charles River,” O’Brien explains, “Baker Lawn was the central green. By the 1950s, the campus had a southern edge bordered by Morgan, Baker Library, Aldrich, the Dean’s House, and Kresge—all still following the river’s arc.” Jumping ahead to the addition of the Spangler Center in 2001, he notes, “You start to see a future that complements the past: the new green formed between Aldrich and Spangler echoes Baker Lawn as a focus of campus life. That green is a central feature of the future vision, along with a continued, southerly build-out along the original curved axis, all the way to Western Avenue.”

While aesthetics are an important element in the evolution of the campus, at HBS, physical changes have always paralleled academic needs. “That emphasis is part of the School’s DNA,” says Angela Quinn Crispi (MBA 1990), the School’s executive dean for administration and former chief planning officer, who has overseen a succession of campus development projects including new construction, restorations, and acquisitions since 1997. She notes that Dean Wallace B. Donham, who participated in the selection of the original 1925 McKim, Mead & White master plan, personally oversaw the construction of a learning environment that would, in his words, “reflect the definite ambition of the faculty to help the students be something more than money makers.” “Over an 87-year timeframe,” adds Crispi, “the School’s leaders have enhanced the campus in ways that meet its unfolding pedagogical, space, and strategic needs.”

What does that imperative look like in today’s academic environment? Hive-style classrooms are one example. Introduced in Batten Hall to support the launch of the School’s required FIELD course in 2011, hives offer flexibility for new learning. “Everything is movable,” stresses O’Brien. “If you want to do one-to-one negotiations for the first part of the day, then meet in bigger groups, or maybe jump to a case room to debrief, the layout and furniture will let you make those transitions seamlessly. The hive is a design with infinite opportunities for adaptation.”

Four Pillars

The capacity to accommodate evolving learning styles is one of four priorities that shaped the 10-year master plan initiated under Dean Jay O. Light in 2006. Input from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and architect/planner Beyer, Blinder, Belle also highlighted the need to foster faculty cohesion, to provide space for staff and activities housed in Allston and Watertown, and to create more community convening spaces.

To satisfy those goals, O’Brien notes, the master plan places significant emphasis on “the way the built environment and open spaces will work together.” While proposals for three new, sustainably built and operated buildings figure prominently in the design for the southern edge of campus, a Community Green will be the dominant, unifying feature. “The master plan calls for a sweeping, east-west arc of open space at the heart of this area [5],” O’Brien elaborates. “In addition to forming a new, outdoor gathering space, the green will intersect and complement the north-south axis created by the library and Baker Lawn.”

Buildings identified as outdated, too expensive to renovate, or functionally obsolete will be considered for removal at a future date. Burden, meanwhile, will be replaced by Klarman Hall, a state-of-the-art convening center expected to open in 2018. Anchoring the southern edge of the green next to Spangler, Klarman will provide enhanced space and increased capacity for academic conferences and ceremonial gatherings, reunions, lectures, and performances.

The master plan also calls for the construction of two buildings that would likely provide faculty and administrative space [6]. “One of these would be sited next to Spangler,” says O’Brien, “and the other along a newly configured Batten Way [7], which will become the primary vehicular entry and drop-off point from Western Avenue.”

When it comes to undeveloped campus real estate, the parking lot adjacent to Spangler will offer a bridge to Harvard University’s planned Allston expansion. “Looking 10 or more years out,” notes Crispi, “that area will become an important interface with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences [9] and the University’s proposed Enterprise Research Campus.” (See sidebar) Tentative plans call for moving parking underground and construction of as many as three buildings on the Western Avenue site [8]. According to Crispi, “programming for these buildings could build on the cross-university success of the nearby i-lab in Batten Hall, expanding further the opportunity for collaboration, interdisciplinary research, and entrepreneurial innovation.”

Crispi acknowledges the historic scope of changes in the master plan but insists its most important feature is something that will stay the same. “It’s easy to get caught up in the scale of all this,” she says, “but the real strength of the master plan is its connection to the core mission of the School. The HBS campus was designed, first and foremost, to be a world-class, residential learning environment. With all the proposals on the table and the years of construction that lie ahead of us, that’s the goal we keep in mind.”

Reed Hilderbrand & Ayers Saint Gross

A Decade of Digging

1 Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center ETA 2016 Located on the former site of Kresge Hall, the four-story Executive Education building will contain meeting rooms, office and dining facilities, and classrooms.

2 Tata Hall Opened in 2013 Tata Hall anchors the northeast corner of a new Executive Education quad.

3 Esteves Hall ETA 2015 Renovated and renamed, Baker Hall will reopen as Esteves Hall in 2015 after extensive updates and improvements to this residential space.

4 Klarman Hall ETA 2018 Klarman Hall will replace Burden Hall as a venue for events and gatherings. The building will include elements of a large-scale conference center, a performance space, and a community forum.

5 Community Green ETA Unknown A Community Green, comparable to Baker Lawn, will connect southward expansion with the historic campus. The green will form a pedestrian-friendly quadrangle and gathering place defined by both existing and proposed buildings at its edges.

6 HBS Faculty and Administrative Offices ETA 2018–2020 Faculty and administrative offices in two proposed buildings will accommodate faculty growth and offer space for the return of departments now housed off-campus.

7 Batten Way ETA Unknown A widened and re-landscaped Batten Way will provide a formal vehicular and pedestrian entry to campus from Western Avenue.

8 Proposed Buildings Along Western Avenue ETA Unknown After HBS parking transitions to below-grade, as many as three proposed Western Avenue building sites could offer space for activities that leverage the School’s new proximity to the University’s SEAS and enterprise research zone.

9 Harvard University Science and Enterprise District ETA 2018–2020 The layouts aren’t shown here, but along the south side of Western Avenue, Harvard University plans to construct lab and teaching space for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), as well as flexible laboratory space for cross-faculty collaborations and experiments.

10 Hotel and Conference Center ETA 2020–2024 These buildings aren’t sketched out here, but the site provides proximity to HBS, SEAS, and future development anticipated for the Enterprise Research Campus.

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1990, Section D

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