It is no secret that Columbia Business School has long had the dubious distinction of calling home one of the worst campus facilities of any major business school in the world.
Uris Hall, the school’s home for more than half a century, has been a cramped coven of narrow hallways in an unattractive block of gray concrete. In fact, from the very beginning, the building was deemed so ugly that architecture students picketed its dedication in 1961. One overzealous critic, writing in the student newspaper, called Uris a “monumental offense,” demanding that it be demolished. The building has been the butt of many jokes in the business school’s annual follies shows.
Little has changed over the 60 years, despite many efforts to put lipstick on the pig. Inside the overcrowded building, there has long been a paucity of adequate space for collaborative work, no student lounges, long waits at the elevators, and no flexible classrooms to speak of. The growth of Columbia Business School over the years, moreover, forced the school to spread out over five buildings on the Columbia University campus.
THE NEW $600 MILLION CAMPUS WILL BE A GAME CHANGER FOR COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL
So the forthcoming Jan. 4th opening of the business school’s new complex at the university’s new Manhattanville campus cannot be overestimated. In every possible way, it is a game changer for one of the world’s most elite business schools. Along with a new emphasis in the curriculum on climate change, the new facility will put Columbia Business School at the forefront of business education.
For one thing, the entirety of Uris Hall could easily be plopped into just one of the two new buildings in the complex which more than doubles the size of the school’s existing space. For another, the stunning design of the layer-cake buildings will dramatically boost pride among students, faculty and staff in their day-to-day living in the new center. Most of all, however, it will dramatically increase the amount of interaction between students and the faculty.
At a price tag of $600 million, the new facilities represent the most expensive business school ever built, more than double the cost to build Yale School of Management’s $243 million building or Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management $250 million Hub with its 415,000 square feet of available space. Kellogg opened its new building in 2017, while Yale moved into its new 240,000 square-foot building in 2014. And just three years ago, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business spent $201 million on its new 315,000-square-foot home.
On a Friday tour of the new complex, as hundreds of construction workers went through their final punch lists, Dean Costis Maglaras took Poets&Quants on a detailed tour of the 492,000 square foot campus sandwiched between the West Side Highway and the elevated subway line at 130th and Broadway in New York’s gentrified West Harlem. The business school will be based in two buildings, the 11-story Henry R. Kravis Hall, with a view of the Hudson River, and the eight-floor David Geffen Hall, minutes from the 125th St. stop for the 1 Broadway – 7 Avenue Local. The towers, roughly a half mile north of the university’s main campus in Upper Manhattan, are separated by an acre-large New York City park and an underground tunnel.
‘BUSINESS EDUCATION IS SOCIAL’ AND THE NEW COMPLEX WILL VASTLY INCREASE INTERACTION
The new complex could not be more different than the space it will depart by year’s end to be taken over by the university’s arts and sciences departments. At Uris, points out Maglaras, the bottom three floors were for students, while the remaining five floors were largely occupied by faculty offices.
“Years ago, university buildings were designed so that the classrooms were separate from the faculty,” points out Maglaras, wearing hard hat during the tour. “In our new buildings, the faculty are not separated from the students. Business education is social. So we are mixing the groups to motivate movement and interaction. This is a dramatic change for how the population will be organized in the new buildings.”
In the Kravis building, for example, student classrooms will occupy every other floor, with faculty offices in between each. The building will also lead to a reorganization of the faculty. Instead of professors being assigned offices by discipline, the faculty is being split into subgroups so they are mixed to encourage more interdisciplinary work and engagement. “It is to stimulate interaction and more interdisciplinary research,” says Maglaras. In the new buildings, “nobody has a corner office.” Instead, every corner has been devoted to a classroom, a lounge or a conference room.
‘STUDENT LIFE WILL IMPROVE…THE WAY WE TEACH AND EDUCATE WILL CHANGE’
“Apart from the dramatic increase in classroom space, there is a dramatic increase in networking places and co-working places,” adds the dean, noting that there will be a nine-fold increase in study rooms for students. “The buildings relax constraints. Student life will improve. The way we can teach and educate will change in the space.”
The recruitment of its students will see great improvement, too. The new career center on the seventh floor of Geffen Hall features 25 interview rooms for corporate recruiters along with a corner lounge.
The dean also forsees a broader role of the business school in the life of the university. “We have more space so we can bring more people back to the school. We will convene business leaders and alumni in a way that was not possible in our previous buildings. It expands the intellectual energy of the school, and we want it to be a nexus for the university to bring our engineering and medical school colleagues here. It creates a place to congregate intellectual energy throughout the university.”