SUNY University at Albany, New Business School

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SUNY University at Albany, New Business School

University at Albany – New School of Business The nature of commerce is not simply making money; it is about engaging others in a way that provides value in the form of a product or a service, in exchange for which they will (hopefully) compensate you. How one goes about creating that engagement is the key to success, and is the educational mission for a new School of Business at the State University of New York in Albany, NY. The design of this project seeks to express this notion of engagement architecturally through a variety of compelling spatial and tectonic measures. The University at Albany is notable as one of the few fully realized megastructure campuses of the 1960’s in the USA. Designed by Edward Durell Stone as an expression of ‘romantic modernism’, the main building, called the ‘Podium’, is nearly 1500 feet long, composed of a series of narrow pavilions linked by a continuous concrete plinth and roof structure. The result is a singular expression of monumental scale, graced by numerous landscaped courtyards that bring light and nature to the composition but seem better suited to central India than the harsh winters of New York State. The site for this project is only the third on the campus to reach beyond the podium, and it auspiciously flanks the grandly scaled main entry axis. Paired with a mirror-glass administrative pavilion by Charles Gwathmey, the building serves not simply as a new identity for the School of Business but defines the formal gateway to the campus. Unlike the Gwathmey building, it does not assume the role of a sculptural object on a blank lawn (‘the jewel in the garden’) but takes on a simple yet assertive form that matches the scale of the podium and extends its Cartesian order into the landscape. Utilizing the proletarian precast concrete of the existing structure, the new building take its ‘DNA’ from the podium’s heroic modernism but transforms it into a new architectural expression that addresses contemporary demands of identity, pedagogy and environmental response. While the process of engagement begins with this formal gesture of literally reaching into the campus, it is expressed more intimately by a series of moves that relate the primary form to its context. Inspired by the notion of courtyards as a metaphor for community, the building opens up to create a multi-layered interior courtyard better suited to the Albany climate. This atrium is simultaneously vertical and horizontal; engaging both the activity of the entry plaza to the east and the sky above to bring light and vitality into the center of the school. This atrium also defines a series of internal ‘terraces’ that serve a variety of needs: the main floor extends the plaza into the school and becomes a public gathering area as well as a means to display the storefront entrepreneurial centers of the program; the lower level provides access to large general purpose classrooms but also serves as a dining area open to a landscaped sunken garden; and the upper level creates a comfortable ‘living room’ for the business school students themselves, separated from the general activity below but spatially linked to create a unified educational community. This interactive spatial quality, recalling the lessons of Wright and Van der Rohe, brings the sense of engagement to an experiential level and reinforces the underlying mission of the school. The design of the building also engages through environmental response. Given that Albany experiences one of the highest numbers of cloudy days in the US, the exterior enclosure has been designed to optimize daylight penetration. The main form is oriented to the axis of the podium but is overlaid with a system of exterior vertical fins that shield unwanted glare and optimize winter daylight in classrooms and offices. These fins also generate a delicate vertical rhythm on the façade that subtly relates to the verticality of the Podium. The design of the skylight continues the design strategy of reorientation, relating the experience of the building’s interior space to the solar strategy. Through evaluating the performance of multiple options, the chosen “butterfly` form was able to maintain desirable and even natural day-lighting within the “living room` while achieving higher solar gain during the cold winter season. The vertical glass of the atrium facing the plaza is designed as a high-performance energy wall, maximizing desirable transparency and daylight to common spaces but controlling heat loss despite its large area. A series of additional sustainable measures involving mechanical systems and recycled materials will permit the building to pursue a high LEED rating. The design of the School of Business evokes both a bold and subtle expression of the notion of engagement: by reaching beyond the traditional boundaries of the campus; by creating spaces that interact, and by responding expressively to environmental demands. The architecture represents and reinforces the schools mission, encouraging a connection to campus, community and society that ultimately creates a meaningful educational experience for students and teachers alike.


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  • Danny Randell
    Danny Randell updated
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  • added a digital reference
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