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Chicago Booth | Mr. Mexican Central Banker
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Stanford’s New MBA Dorm: Most Posh Ever?

The Tower Entrance is the main entryway from the Arrival Walk into Highland Hall. The iconic four-story Tower Entrance makes an artistic statement. It serves as a beacon with its unique design and brightly colored vertical light in the center.

The iconic four-story Tower Entrance, the main entryway from the Arrival Walk into Highland Hall, makes an artistic statement and serves as a beacon with its unique design and brightly colored vertical light in the center.

This isn’t Animal House, and it’s certainly not your mother’s or father’s college dormitory. You know, those incredibly sparse and stuffy residences where four to six people were piled into a small space, with a central bathroom down the hall for the two to three dozen students on the floor, the same bathroom with leaking faucets and a toilet or two out of order.

Nope. The new Highland Hall that incoming Stanford MBAs will move into on Sept. 9 more closely resembles a luxurious hotel, with housekeeping services and the architectural details and gorgeous artwork you would expect of a high-end resort in Mexico — largely the result of Stanford’s decision to hire Mexico-based architects Legorreta + Legorreta along with Steinberg Architects. The white limestone found throughout the residence is Crème del Giglio, while Cantera Stone — quarried, volcanic rock mined exclusively in various regions of Mexico and Central America — is the primary building material on the exterior.

At a cost of $75 million—-just slightly below budget-—the new 145,000-square-foot dorm rivals the cost most public universities might spend on an entire building for its business school, with classrooms, faculty offices, study rooms, and an auditorium. Divide the $75 million into the 202 new residential units and Stanford has spent $371,287 per residential unit, roughly $77,000 more than the median price of a new home in the U.S., or $517.24 per square foot.

But from Highland Hall’s dramatic entrance, through an iconic four-story tower in bold purple, which serves as a beacon with its unique design and brightly colored vertical light in the center, to the main courtyard that features a mosaic tile carpet and waterfall, this is boldly modern architecture deeply influenced by the architectural firm’s Mexican heritage.


For the first time, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business will now offer on-campus housing to all its first-year MBA students, in either the existing Schwab Residential Center or Highland Hall. Schwab, a 280-unit dorm opened in 1997, is right next to the new dorm and will itself undergo a 16-month rennovation starting in September. First dibs on the Highland rooms have gone to students by lottery. None of this comes exactly cheap. The monthly rent, including utilities and housekeeping, is $1,800 per student, a sum that Bernadette DeRafael, director of facilities and hospitality at Stanford GSB, says is comparable to rents in the Palo Alto/Menlo Park area.

Asked if she had ever lived in a dorm like this one, DeRafael sighs. “Oh, no, no, no,” she says. While workers rush to put the finishing touches on the new center, she has been giving tours of the building’s four floors. “Alumni come here and immediately say, ‘Oh, can I come back to school? This is really great.’”

Highland Hall, just across the street from the Knight Management Center that opened five years ago, boasts 202 residential units, all identical in layout. A typical unit offers up 760 gross square feet, an improvement on the 700 gross-square-foot versions in the existing Schwab Residential Center, the only other MBA residence on campus. Each student lucky enough to get into Highland will have a private entrance, a private bath, a spacious walk-in closet, a flat-screen TV, a long work desk, and a fully-equipped kitchen that faces out for natural lighting, shared with just one other MBA student.

Goldman Court is the main courtyard located behind the Viking Study. Punctuated by Legorreta + Legorreta features including vibrant colors and a signature water feature with a mosaic tile carpet designed by Mexican artist Adan Paredes. The Goldman Court will be a primary space for outdoor activities and casual resident gatherings.

This is the main courtyard located behind the student lounge at the main entrance to the building. It is punctuated by Legorreta + Legorreta features, including vibrant colors and a signature water feature with a mosaic tile carpet designed by Mexican artist Adan Paredes. The main courtyard will be a primary space for outdoor activities and casual resident gatherings.


The complex features three magnificent courtyards, including one with a waterfall, and three outdoor terraces that include spectacular views of the foothills and Stanford’s iconic Hoover Tower. There are also four living/dining rooms for group dinners, three activity rooms, and two more living/dining/kitchen rooms. The wood benches in a student courtyard and the decking on a rooftop terrace are made of Ipe, a beautiful exotic Brazilian walnut.

There are vibrant colors throughout the new complex: striking combinations of bold purples, rich, earthy terra-cotta reds, sun-baked coppers and oranges, bright yellows, tangerines and pinks. The three signature art pieces in the new building are all designed by Mexican artists. Adan Paredes fashioned the dramatic mosaic tile carpet that is the centerpiece of the 4,500-square-foot main courtyard, which will serve as a gathering place for residents. Pilar Climent designed the Art Gate made of metal and quartz. Artist Frida Escobedo created a dramatic art wall made of solanum steel for the zen-like student courtyard.

The project has been a little more than three years in the making. It started in March of 2013 with the selection of the architects and demolition of the site. A general contractor was brought in during August of that year and the school won concept approval from the university board of trustees in December. A groundbreaking ceremoney was held in November of 2014.

DeRafael notes that the common area spaces at Highland Hall will be open to all GSB students. “We have intentionally incorporated unique features and common areas in Highland Hall that are not found in the Schwab Residential Center so students will more fluidly go from one to the other,” she says. “We want to encourage students to move back and forth between the buildings.” Stanford, for example, chose not to duplicate features such as exercise space, study rooms, and BBQ that students have in the Schwab Center into Highland Hall.

Mosaic tile carpet designed by Mexican artist Adan Paredes.

Mosaic tile carpet designed by Mexican artist Adan Paredes.