The Best Business School Campuses

Shad Center at Harvard Business School


The most underrated part of the HBS campus? O’Brien points to the meticulous landscaping. “We pay as much attention to how it is landscaped and how the buildings connect to one another as we do to each building project,” O’Brien admits. “That contributes to the overall physical experience.”

Indeed, Harvard — much like its Bean Town surroundings — is a walker’s paradise. Just across the Charles River from Harvard Square, the campus is a relatively short walk from downtown Boston. However, students barely notice the big city bustle away from the school. That’s all by design.

“It’s a fully planned campus that’s laid out in arcs and axis,” O’Brien specifies. “As you travel from one space to the next, the areas complement each other. You’re learning both outside the classroom as well as inside the classroom. So I’ve designed spaces where, for example, you’re walking along a path and you have a place to come off path to talk to someone if you’d like. We have designed in our newest building, the Chao Center, a stairway that goes from the 1st to 2nd floor dining services with seating in the middle of the stairs. So we have social engineering so the conversation can always continue no matter where you are on the campus and continue in a seamless way. You’re not working to make it happen.”

A HBS Case Classroom at Aldrich Hall

Fuqua operates in a similar fashion, with an eye towards naturally creating various spaces for students to connect and collaborate. In fact, Fuqua views students as partners with valuable insights on how to best invest in the space. “We listen to our students,” Morgan makes clear. “In the Fox Center, we’ve added some higher tables for students who want to stand and eat or work in a standing fashion. We’ve heard that some students didn’t want to take up a whole team room for interviews, so we started rolling out self-enclosed phone booths and things like that. The space fits who our students are.”


Harvard Business School is both pioneer and leader in the case method. Here, students must embrace a modus operandi where there is no right or wrong answer. Instead, the HBS classroom is a place where strong viewpoints collide, fostering a rapid-fire back-and-forth that’s hard to replicate in a traditional setup. Hence, O’Brien organizes the case rooms in a horseshoe shape so form follows function. In fact, every room is outfitted the same way — whether they host 60, 100, or 200 students — so faculty and students can step into any class and enjoy the same experience

“Every case room has tiers,” O’Brien explains, “so the idea is for students to be able to see and hear each other without strain. If I’m in the first row, I can listen to the comments from the person in that very back row. As a result, we pay close attention to lighting and acoustics and noise and sight lines. The name tag, believe it or not, ends up being an important thing because everyone addressed by their name in the room to create a little more closeness to one another and the teacher to yourself. There is quite a bit of AV in the room that supports the conversation and is used as needed to support the case discussion. It might be video, polling, or spreadsheets. It is all about supporting the dialogue that happens around the case.”


Lobby of the newly-opened JB Duke Hotel

Looking to the future, neither Fuqua nor Harvard is resting on their laurels, however. This month, Fuqua opened the doors to its newly-renovated, along with its accompanying JB Duke Hotel. “It creates an even nicer dinning option for our students, along with adding a space for our prospective and executive MBA students to stay when they’re here that’s adjacent to the complex,” Morgan explains. “It gives us some more classrooms and team rooms and facilitates just being on campus more. There’s even a bar where you can go for drinks at the end of the day if you want to meet with the recruiter and things like that.”

HBS has an equally ambitious project on the docket:  Klarman Hall. Slated to open in the fall of 2018, this 1,000 seat “convening hall” will replace Burden Hall, currently the school’s largest with 750 seats. However, Klarman Hall’s size is far from its most impressive feature.  “We’re working in the design so that you can have a conversation in this large venue that feels intimate,” O’Brien says. “You can talk to one another in the audience without having to run a microphone to one another. And the speaker can engage with the person in the 40th row in a way that would be difficult in different kinds of venues.”

That’s an important feature at HBS, where dignitaries tend to come when invited. “The reason for doing this is to really harness the convening power of HBS,” O’Brien adds. “We can really up the scale on the number of people we can get into the dialogue on important business issues.”

To see how respondents scored the facilities at the top MBA programs in The Economist student survey, go to the next page.