Just a couple of weeks ago, HBS proudly opened its latest building to the public. The Tata-building (buildings are traditionally named after one of its biggest donors – the Tata Trust donated $50m for the construction of the building) will mainly be dedicated to executive education, which is clearly stated in its very corporate-looking design with tons of glass and shiny bright walls. The same kind of building that is used by a Tata Nano car to drive onto to avoid traffic (at least that’s what happens in the online advertisement – see it HERE). It is the first building in that style on the HBS campus. While the building looks nice, it does not stand out, which I believe to be a missed change. One doesn’t get a $50m donation every year to expand a campus.
While the new Tata-building does not stand out, some other buildings on the HBS campus can be considered landmark buildings. The symbol of HBS is Baker Library, which is very recognizable thanks to its white tall columns and bell tower on top. Upon entering the building, students find themselves in a quite luxurious environment with leather seats and a dozen flatscreens featuring CNN and business TV channels. For low-tech people, it is the place to find fresh copies of all kinds of international (business) newspapers. While spacious and located in the center of the campus, the library is not a place where one sees a lot of students. I guess digital age is to blame.
Spangler is a better place to do student-spotting. Spangler houses 2 restaurants, offering sandwiches, prepared food ranging from sushi to pastas and a pretty impressive salad-bar. I was surprised to find that Spangler, for being a student cafeteria, has its own reviews on Yelp (find reviews HERE). I give Spangler 4 stars and strongly recommend the sushi!
Aldrich, right in front of the Spangler building, is the place where most of the teaching magic happens. It has a dozen of U-shaped classrooms and some alcoves in which students can prepare for class and work together in small groups. The alcoves are particularly handy, as I find HBS sometimes lacks places for students to collaborate. And Aldrich has a secret, not known to many. Somewhere between the first and the second floor, it has a fully operational Japanese Toto toilet. I wonder what the story is behind that.
A more recent add-on to the HBS campus is the iLab, also referred to as the Hives. It opened its doors in 2011 and stands out by its modern design as well by its goal – stimulating innovation in the whole Harvard community. Its reach is thus well beyond that of HBS students only, and future will tell if the iLab will succeed in its role of innovation incubator.
And then there are some monstrosities on the HBS campus. The Rock center is an ugly concrete square. But the real monster in my opinion is the student housing building called One Western Ave (OWA). OWA is supposed to look like a bridge of sort, but is in reality a very inconvenient, confusing and weird-looking building. This in contrast to a lot of the older student housing building at HBS, which are nicely designed and often have classy common rooms for students to hang out. They tend to be equipped with pianos and (again) leather seats. Maybe the design disasters of the Rock Center and OWA have led HBS to take less risks when adding a new building to the campus. There is no safer bet than putting a building down with glass walls nowadays. But in my view, HBS could have build something more daring… even if there’s always the risk that some will perceive it as yet another monstrosity on campus.