Reaching out for light, collaboration and nature

Stephanie Hunt
26 Feb 2010

Business School extends from campus to provide a new quadrangle and transparency for visual access.

This project is for a 67,000 sq ft business school at the University of Minnesota Duluth, which sits at the northern edge of campus and creates a new edge and vehicular gateway. It is a counterpoint to the single megastructure of the original campus, and thus provides more natural daylight and visual access to the interior, as well as forms a new inner quadrangle.

The building attaches to the existing campus structure, but extends out, relating to the newly planned roadway system and engaging the adjacent woodland. Where the building merges with the existing campus structure, it links into an elaborate indoor campus-wide concourse system, designed to protect the students from the harsh winters. Multiple exterior entries connect the building to the rest of the campus through a network of sidewalks which, on this site, pass landscaped stormwater collection areas featuring native plant materials.

The articulation of the two major program elements, teaching spaces and faculty offices, arranged around a central atrium is the basis for the building expression. The naturally lit three-story space provides gathering areas in a collaborative environment which are critical for the learning process in business schools. This atrium is a mixing bowl which connects all three levels and provides the informal spaces for productive interaction supporting the large and small formal teaching spaces. A curvilinear glass bar element houses the faculty offices at level three, and becomes the unifying element for the individually articulated teaching spaces below.

Teaching elements are expressed as weathering-steel framed volumes which recall the industrial heritage of the region found in the many industrial bridges and structures still seen along Lake Superior. The elliptical drum of the auditorium leads visitors from the small plaza to the north to the main entry.The University's commitment to the welfare of their faculty and students in addition to their concern for the natural surroundings was at the core of design and construction for the School. The project is LEED® Gold Certified.

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