Kellogg’s $250 Million Marvel On The Lake

To celebrate the building’s lakefront location, Kellogg’s new 415,000-square-foot Global Hub pays homage to the environment in two ways — the curved exterior walls reflect the wave movement on the lake, while the glass reflects the blues of the water as well as the sky.

Night and Day.

Sure, it’s a quintessential Sinatra tune from another era. But the cliche aptly describes the dramatic difference between the old, comparatively drab gray concrete home of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and its new, ultra-modern, glass-and-steel global hub that officially opened today (March 29).

The $250 million lakefront structure with two atriums piled on top of each other is a breathtakingly expansive building that makes Kellogg’s old home feel like a dated high school facility. You could easily think, in fact, that the now near-empty Jacob Center, named for the school’s legendary Dean Don Jacobs, could fit in just the soaring four-story, 6,000-square-foot “collaboration plaza” at the center of the building.


All together, with its four wings of nooks and crannies for students to study and hang out, the 415,000-square-foot building is nothing less than an architectural marvel among a sea of Northwestern campus gray. Or as Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin recently observed, “This is a carefully wrought, spatially complex design that promises to teach future executives valuable lessons about collaboration, boldness and flexibility.”

It is also a sorely needed upgrade for Kellogg. Harry Kraemer, a clinical professor of strategy, concedes that “The Jake,” as students affectionally call the Jacob Center, was “a pretty miserable environment.” With the sole exception of Columbia Business School, which is preparing to move to a new New York building in a couple of years, Kellogg was the graduate school of business without a home worthy of its prestige and pedigree. No longer.

Just read the prose architected by Kamin, who clearly fell in love with the new building that opened to students on the first day of the new quarter classes on Monday. “Curving walls and canopies, inspired by the way the lake’s waves round off materials, relate well to the contours of the shoreline and an undulating lagoon to the south,” wrote the critic. “The curves join with translucent vertical fins to give the building an appealing sense of fluidity. Reddish-brown wood soffits lend the cool blue-green facade much-needed warmth. Outdoor terraces, some with spectacular views of the Chicago skyline, suggest that the B-school is not a hermetically sealed glass box shut off from its surroundings.”

Phew. The only fault Kamin found was some unevenly poured concrete, though none was in evidence today. Seven years in the planning, the building took, in the words of Dean Sally Blount, “every ounce of faith, grit, and patience” to get it done: More than one million work hours by over 1,500 people. The materials used in the fabrics in the building are from 17 different countries.

Here’s a photographic peek at Kellogg’s new magnificent home, designed by the Toronto-based architectural firm of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg (KPMB).

Leading Bravely Into A New Era


At the Global Hub, incoming students are welcomed by two hanging banners in the university’s trademark purple that proudly announce the school is “Leading Bravely Into A New Era.” Gone is the formal oil portrait of legendary Dean Don Jacobs who had welcomed visitors to “The Jake” for years in a humble, low-ceiling vestibule. Instead, to the immediate right of the entrance at the Global Hub, there’s a new Don Jacobs wing.

The Collaboration Plaza


The architectural brief for Kellogg’s Global Hub called for an “excessively public” building. Bruce Kuwabara, a foundering partner of Toronto-based KPMB Architects, says objective brought to mind an “academic village a hilltop town or a piazza.” During an early presentation on the project, the architects had put up a slide with the words “from the shores of Lake Michigan to Piazza San Marco,” a reference to the public square in Venice. The Kellogg imagined version turned out to be the so-called Collaboration Plaza on the first floor, with a three-story-high atrium and two glass openings that draw attention toward Lake Michigan and Chicago’s skyline. “A lot of business schools are about power and donors,” Kuwabara says. “This is about collaboration.”

The Spanish Steps


A pair of sweeping 34-foot-wide stairways reminiscent of Rome’s renowned Spanish Steps anchor the Collaboration Plaza. The steps serve as a convening place for students and link the lower level, first floor, and second floor of Kellogg’s new Global Hub.

The Galvin Family Design Wing


North of the plaza in Kellogg’s new Global Hub is a 7,800-square-foot space called the Galvin Family Design Wing & Conference Center. Among other things, the wing includes four design studios: a company-in-residence studio, an artist-in-residence studio, a tech studio where virtual reality-assisted brainstorming can occur, and a maker space where design prototypes can be built. The wing also houses Kellogg’s entrepreneurial initiative where students can work on their startup ideas.


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