An evolving space

Flexible classrooms and spaces inside Kellogg's new building will foster a community for years to come

Flexible classrooms and spaces inside Kellogg’s new building will foster a community for years to come

By Heather Blaha

When it comes to the functional longevity of Kellogg's new global hub, a flexible design — one that enables transformation – is key.

Leann Paul, who assists Kellogg with the new building project, says that the design process required an evaluation of the classrooms and communal spaces from Kellogg's past. "We looked back at what happened in the past that didn’t have a long lifespan, and then we tried to avoid making those same decisions," she says.

As a result of that process, the team focused on designing public spaces that could shift to meet new demands. They designated the ground-level atrium as a central meeting point that could double as a location for grand events and speeches; developed the faculty summit, which includes a meeting area and six seminar rooms that function day-to-day as a faculty lounge and PhD teaching spaces, respectively. The summit will also be a first-rate space for Kellogg to host academic events.

Flexible solutions

Changes in technology inform the most significant departure from the Jacobs Center. Classrooms now require higher ceilings with access and space for manipulating, adding or removing cables. Says Paul, “We went through all of the instructional spaces in the existing building and very carefully considered what we needed to change.”

The team also tackled the challenge of flexibility in the size and structure of classrooms.

Every professor has a preferred classroom but can’t always teach in it, due to scheduling challenges, says Bob McDonald, senior associate dean for faculty and research and the Erwin P. Nemmers Professor of Finance. “Personally, I’d rather teach in a classroom that is flat, as that allows for a very specific type of interaction in line with my teaching style,” says McDonald. “It depends on what you need as a professor – and what types of interactions the students need in your class.”

So, the design team proposed a flexible solution in which each room can be flat, tiered, divided or expanded, to meet professors’ varied goals year after year.

Lead design architect for KPMB Architects, Bruce Kuwabara, believes the new building will reflect Kellogg’s unique identity. The school seeks a building that is “excessively public,” he says, so the design team created a narrative for the project based on that direction. “Kellogg has already differentiated itself among business schools, so the design will express that,” says Kuwabara. “To us, ‘excessively public’ means that everyone engaging with the building will have a lot of choices,” he says.

‘Creating a building that’s capable of change’

Upholding KPMB’s design mantra for the Kellogg project — Great Space Everywhere — Kuwabara sought to capture just the right feeling throughout the building from day one.

“We wanted to have great space everywhere – in the atriums, classrooms, offices, lounges – everywhere. Nothing could be just okay; everything had to be really fantastic,” says Kuwabara.

When students and staff leave the classrooms, KPMB’s goal is that they experience an academic village every time. The design narrative is built both on flexible structures as well as making and supporting the academic community that will change over time.

With spaces graduating from smallest to largest, the building will offer choices where people can study, work, meet and relax. The design strategy connects a series of smaller buildings, each of which has its own character and identity that forms the larger Kellogg experience.

Kuwabara believes his team truly understands the site and the Kellogg community, and is creating a building that’s capable of change. “The people, courses and themes will change,” he says, “but we want to have a building that’s incredibly beautiful, robust, functional and totally flexible.”

For KPMB Architects, the role of architecture within the much larger set of goals for Kellogg’s future is clear: “We’re building for Kellogg’s long term with a huge investment in education,” says Kuwabara. While the new building will reinforce the brand and life of Kellogg, it will also welcome and foster its evolving community.

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