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Clemson University

Clemson, SC

Clemson University Designs New College of Business as Social Hub

Social interaction and collaboration were at the root of the design for the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business at Clemson University.

The original College of Business, located in Sirrine Hall, had historic charm, but was not particularly conducive to interaction.

A Natural Gathering Space

The 176,000-square-foot facility has two towers. The south tower is home to the dean’s suite and faculty offices, while the north tower functions as a social hub. The towers are joined together by an outdoor staircase modeled after the Spanish Steps in Rome. The university team wanted to create a gathering space where people could stop and chat on the fly. That concept continues throughout the social hub of the north tower.

Inside is a soaring atrium featuring an inviting café and a fireplace lounge where students can be seen studying over lunch, meeting with peers and professors or just informally gathering. The café emerged as a fan favorite.

“That’s a very high-demand space,” said Paul Borick, project manager. “People bring their battery packs and laptops, and they really camp out. KI design specialists helped us envision the layout and maximize the number of seats without making the space feel overbuilt.”

While planning the south building, the dean of the business school at the time said his priority was to get faculty “out of their caves” by providing office spaces that were transparent, open and light.

Lightline architectural walls with an applied film provided a perfect solution for offices and conference rooms, allowing natural light to filter through the space while maintaining visual and acoustical privacy.

“You walk down the corridors, and it feels very modern, clean and bright,” Borick said. “There’s almost nowhere in the building where you can stand without seeing natural light. And nobody feels like they’re in a fishbowl.”

The College of Business is a model of sustainability with the quality daylighting provided by Lightline architectural walls and the unique use of locally sourced materials. During construction, Clemson removed 45 trees (and planted 75 new ones), which were then repurposed into 13,000 feet of harvested board wood. Clemson leveraged the Infinity From KI process to use Pillar and Athens table bases with custom tabletops made from the reclaimed wood. These tables can be found throughout the café area.

It's the place to be. Universities are special places for a variety of reasons. KI understands that, and that makes a difference.

- Paul Borick, project manager

A Place to Stay

When the Clemson team began planning for the new business school, the goal was to make the space “unleavable.” That’s exactly what happened.

“The building is a big part of that,” Borick said. “It’s the place to be. Universities are special places for a variety of reasons. KI understands that, and that makes a difference.”

The College of Business is now a dynamic, social and vibrant hub on campus where people want to stay between classes and events.

Corridors with floor-to-ceiling windows are lined with study rooms and lounge spaces offering sweeping views of nearby Bowman Field and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. The intuitive architectural wall system seamlessly integrates technology and allows students and staff to reserve meeting rooms in advance. Scheduling monitors are prominently displayed on rooms, making it easy to determine if a room is available for use.

“We set up informal touch-down spaces as well as rooms where students can schedule breakout sessions to talk through what they learned in class,” Borick said. “We really tried to tailor the building to how students work today. There are just as many non-business students hanging out as business students, and applications to the business school have skyrocketed.”

You walk down the corridors, and it feels very modern, clean and bright. There's almost nowhere in the building where you can stand without seeing natural light.

- Paul Borick, project manager

Forming Future Leaders

The Clemson team sought to design the College of Business to accommodate everyday activities and events for students, faculty and nearby employers. Incorporating flexibility into key areas was foundational in this goal.

A hallmark is the 200-seat auditorium. Rather than employing traditional fixed, tiered seating, the university outfitted a flat-floor auditorium with Apply stack chairs to accommodate a wide range of functions from lectures and breakout sessions to career fairs.

“We might have class in the auditorium in the morning and then reconfigure the space for a faculty dinner with 100 people in the evening,” said Borick. “Staff and students especially appreciated the design of the Apply chairs which feature raised outer edges on the seat back. The design is timeless, but has a nice little flair to it. If you hang your bag on that edge, it won’t slide off.”

Additional lecture-style classrooms complement the multipurpose auditorium with spaces for smaller groups. In these spaces, the team incorporated concentric, curved Seminar tables for sleek, professional learning environments.

“KI really caters to what the modern student is looking for,” Borick said.

With flexible and functional learning spaces and vibrant social hub, the College of Business is designed to help students transition to the corporate world after graduation. KI seamlessly supported the Clemson team’s vision of creating engaging spaces that do just that.


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