Kent gets first glimpse into designs for new College of Business Administration building

Interior design proposal from Hemingway Development.

Valerie Royzman

Kent students and community members saw design proposals for the new College of Business Administration building — part of the university’s decade-long, 10-year Facilities Master Plan — from four architectural firms at a competition Thursday.

The event garnered more than 300 guests in the Student Center Ballroom, and it provided Kent residents their first peek into Phase 1 of the Master Plan, scheduled for completion between 2018-20.

The building, projected to cost $72.3 million, will appear along East Main Street, and it will highlight the new gateway to front campus. The current Business Administration Building, constructed in the 1970s, has a shortage of space and lack of room for collaborative, team-based learning.

Deborah Spake, the dean of the College of Business Administration, said she was “delighted with the result” of all four teams: Hemingway Development, Pizzuti Companies, Oxford Development Company and Signet Real Estate Group.

Though there’s still a long way to go before an evaluation committee can choose a winner, one thing is for sure about the design of the college — there will be lots of windows and natural light, evident from the presentations.

The teams also shared the vision of plenty of instructional space, an auditorium to seat 400 or more and donors lounges.

Jack Bialosky, the senior and managing principal of design firm Bialosky Cleveland, was one of the presenters for Hemingway Development, also based out of Cleveland. He said the team’s proposal is meant to “raise the bar” because it creates a portal to global business and provides a flexible platform as the college and its needs grows through the years.

The design features familiar Kent State terracotta colors, training labs, a pavilion with a grand staircase and the first three levels will have instructional classrooms.

The Pizzuti Companies, a real estate agency out of Columbus, collaborated with Arquitectonica, an international architecture company, for its design heavily concentrated on cubes throughout the building.

Bernardo Fort Brescia, co-founder of Arquitectonica, said the cubic arrangement is meant to create the impression of “more than one building, more than one discipline that is coming together,” which elevates the principles of business, namely “teamwork,” when students gather to work on assignments like case studies.

The team’s proposal also includes plans for a west wing dedicated to classroom space and an atrium as the “hub of the business school.”

Nina La Cour Sell, the lead design architect of design firm Henning Larsen, presented on behalf of team Oxford, a real estate developer from Pittsburgh. She said three drivers of their design include context, community and connectivity.

The exterior of the proposed design resembles the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, with focus on the terracotta facade, which she said “relates well with other Kent State buildings.”

La Cour Sell said the team considered wind patterns in the making of their design, and she wanted the building to feel like it was in the middle of a park to “have the outside as a learning environment” and study space.

The Signet Real Estate Group, headquartered in Akron, proposed a flexible auditorium with screenings around the room to allow students and faculty to look at each other, while the presenter is at the center.

The atrium is meant to serve as the interactive, organizing space of the building, much like the other teams suggested.

Mark Polatajko, the senior vice president for Finance and Administration, said the Master Plan calls for a “P-4 model” to fund this project. 

“The P-4, which is public-private partnership with a philanthropic component to it, is truly based on our ability to raise philanthropic gifts in order to not only buy down the cost of the project itself, but then over time to meet the operating and lease expenses associated with the life-cycle cost of the new building,” Polatajko said.

The Board of Trustees meets June 6, and it must approve individual projects in the Master Plan.

Spake said she doesn’t anticipate a winning team will be chosen by then because the evaluating committee, which is meeting with design consultants for feedback, will likely need more time before making a recommendation to President Beverly Warren.

She said choosing a favorite would be difficult because each team came in with solutions that would meet the new college’s needs.

“We were very specific about the parameters for the RFQ (request for quotation), and so all of the teams were required to submit final proposals that fit those parameters,” she said. “So they certainly met my expectations, and they’re varied in terms of the way they look.”

Valerie Royzman is an administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected].