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The Schulich Building

Carol Khoury

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Traditionally, the architecture of universities were intended to create two worlds. The first was the exterior image presented to the public, which served to instill a sense of inspiration into the community. The second was the interior image, which mirrored the city and reflected the future workplace students would experience upon graduation. Applying this idea to business schools, what was the image these buildings projected in past society? An old-fashioned gentlemen’s club made up of suits and the heavy scented of cigars? The stigmatism of the corporate world? Business schools’ architecture was rarely a significant concern in the past.

However, starting from a little more than a decade ago, emerging trends in business education has given way to a new awareness of design and brand-building. New and compelling designs are making a bold entrance on campuses world-wide – not only are they aesthetically pleasing; but host cutting-edge and innovative spaces. The architecture of business schools is now created with thoughtful care, exploring the notion of balancing corporate palettes with a warm and contemporary attitude.

Simply put, business schools are expressing their values and aspirations through architecture. When designing the Schulich School of Business, the vision was to create “the kind of building that people couldn’t wait to come into when they get up in the morning. Since the building’s opening in 2003, it has attracted and inspired both the surrounding and global community.  As a world-renowned business school with a strong architectural identity and modern facilities; Schulich has created a rich culture of engagement and collaboration. It is the product of imagination of Canadian Hariri Pontarini Architects and Toronto-based Robbie/Young + Wright Architects. It was also a recipient of the 2006 Governor General’s Medal in Architecture.

Schulich covers 340,000 square feet of land and features a sleek, glass-fronted complex. It includes 40,000 tonnes of poured concrete; 2 million pounds of sandblasted, hand-cut Algonquin limestone; and enough thick copper flashing to cover the CN Tower from top to bottom. Sustainability can further contribute to the artistic innovation. Schulich takes pride in sustainable design – the 2.2 acres of energy-efficient glass brings in a lot of natural light, and the green concrete consists of recycled slag and fly ash. As well, the bold and spacious horticultural brings attention to the building. The exterior intelligently brings the corporate architecture of the 1950s into the 21st century.

The interior maintains the same visual richness as the exterior, with a similar palette and widespread transparency. As summed up by the school administration, “One enters the building with a sense that things are done a little differently here. And here is, at all times, a feeling that one is about to discover something new.” The concept of openness emphasizes this mindset. The building layout is constructed to increase the spontaneous collaborations and interactivity between faculty and students. It is impossible to come to class and leave the building without bumping into colleagues, whether it be in the hallway or marketplace. Essentially, the design provides an ideal learning environment for bringing people and ideas together.

Cities were once recognized internationally for their elegant public buildings such as opera houses. In today’s fast-paced working world, it is now business schools that put cities on the map. The Financial Times of London states that Schulich is “one of a new breed of 21st century business schools changing the way business is taught.” Schulich’s modern and distinctive design not only evokes a sense of universality, but also makes studying a little more pleasant.

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