The new business school serves as a gateway to the Rutgers campus, part of a master plan also designed by TEN Arquitectos.

The new business school serves as a gateway to the Rutgers campus, part of a master plan also designed by TEN Arquitectos.

Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto


There was a time not long ago when a building such as TEN Arquitectos’ new business school for Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., might have gotten by on its crisp good looks and structural exhibitionism alone. As a taste for such things took hold overseas in years past—and as an architecture of seductively picturesque risk increasingly became the norm—aesthetically and fiscally conservative America lagged very far behind.

The buildings southwest corner, supported by canted columns, bridges a road onto the campus. Three-dimensional metal panels from Centria clad the west and south façades.

The building’s southwest corner, supported by canted columns, bridges a road onto the campus. Three-dimensional metal panels from Metalwërks clad the west and south façades.

Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto

We were deprived then, as the late Herbert Muschamp often noted, of examples of this nascent architecture of “desire.” It followed that desirous critics were often moved to give a pass to the few projects in that contemporary mode that did get built here: A delight in a building’s boldness and apparent novelty trumped any concerns about the means deployed and sacrifices made to realize the desired effects.

Thankfully, that time has passed: We’ve all seen this stuff before.

Seen here from the southeast, the elevations facing the interior of the campus incorporate curtainwalls from Jangho with glass from Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope.

Seen here from the southeast, the elevations facing the interior of the campus incorporate curtainwalls from Jangho with glazing from Xinyi Glass.

Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto

So let’s ignore for the moment the wide, bent, road-spanning bridge of Enrique Norten’s business school building; the 10 cheekily canted columns that hold the top floor in place 60 feet in the air as it travels between anchoring wings; the frank baring of its photo-white bones through glass walls where the building faces the exurban satellite campus for which it serves as icon and gate; the racy texturing of the opaque skin and the resulting near-total blindness of the building where it faces away.

The north end of the L-shaped building is also glazed, placing the internal trusswork and structure on display.

The north end of the L-shaped building is also glazed, placing the internal trusswork and structure on display.

Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto

Let’s ignore every camera-friendly move that, before we became inured through overexposure, might have made us say “Wow” or “Cool” or even “Gee whiz! I want that”—noting, however, that the greatest pressure on a design to incorporate such features is, very often, the mercantile drive to elicit those exact feelings of transient awe and desire. First from clients, to secure the buy-in; then from donors, to secure the funds; later to aid in capturing the attention of harried editors and impressionable writers; eventually, perhaps, to dazzle colleagues; and, always, to arrest the consuming gaze of civilians—future clients!—as they flip through a magazine like this one.

The main pedestrian lobby is located under the bridge, in the western wing of the building.

The main pedestrian lobby is located under the bridge, in the western wing of the building.

Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto

By that standard, this is a job well done. And as such it is typical of the work of Norten’s firm, which thoughtfully uses novel forms and suites of effects. “We didn’t want another box in the landscape,” says Norten, Hon. FAIA, of a landscape for which his firm began preparing the master plan in 2009. And he didn’t give his clients a box, outside, or in. To the architects’ great credit, the interior spaces of the building are in fact very cool.

A lounge at the top of the main staircase is the first non-programmed space that visitors encounter in the building, and it sets the tone for the interior strategy.

A lounge at the top of the main staircase is the first “non-programmed space” that visitors encounter in the building, and it sets the tone for the interior strategy.

Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto

And functionally so. The trend among contemporary business schools is to give precedence to spaces for collaborative work. Here, those “non-programmed” spaces, as Norten calls them, generate the logic of the whole. A series of open lounges and labs, and a stack of conference rooms enclosed by fogged glass, inhabit a tall, narrow zone just behind the fully glazed, amply fritted, campus-facing wall of the main wing. Then—across a light-giving slot—offices and small classrooms are hung in a second discrete volume, the exposed surfaces of which are wrapped in shiny black-plastic sheets studded with little pyramids. That funky material also marks one side of the main corridor in an abutting third zone, where elevators, plumbing, larger classrooms, and the school’s enormous main auditorium find their home, backing up to the building’s great, blind wall facing the outside world.

  • The perimeter stair located on the eastern, glazed side of the building.

    Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto

    The perimeter stair located on the eastern, glazed side of the building.
  • Additional lounge and breakout spaces are located throughout the building, especially around the main atrium in the western wing.

    Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto

    Additional lounge and breakout spaces are located throughout the building, especially around the main atrium in the western wing.

It’s a smart organization of space, and one that is readily apparent coming in the front door, past the sitting area and greeting desk, where the gently sloped main stair—designed, and used, for gathering—takes you up two levels to nearly meet the ceiling in an intelligently, even lovingly, compressed lounge area. It’s the first of so many examples, from the airy platforms opening off the suspended stairs that knit the “non-programmed” zones together so well, to the more formal resting nooks, with their carved Corian benches, that are to be found outside the smaller classrooms within the carefully scaled, black-wrapped middle zone.

“We were always trying to find little opportunities for people to just sit and be there,” Norten says. And in that he and his team have succeeded; the building is alive inside, and the students are taking the architects’ cues and running with them.

Main stair.

Main stair.

Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto

There is always a “but” in this sort of building, where glamour has a voice in the process of design, where the production of desire, the ensorcelling of clients or donors or press, however useful in the early stages of a project, is given shape and made permanent in the construction itself. Now we return to the big move: that big bridge up there on its big, beautiful columns. From the road, approaching, and especially when rounding the traffic circle as one prepares to take the turn in, and under, and through, that feature of the building does an excellent job of signposting the campus—as it was intended to do, serving here the broader purposes of TEN Arquitectos’ master plan.

Bridges and structure cross the interstitial spaces between perimeter breakout spaces and interior offices and classrooms.

Bridges and structure cross the interstitial spaces between perimeter breakout spaces and interior offices and classrooms.

Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto

But having carved that space out of the larger mass to give the building such an eye-catching roadside presence, there must also have been an incredible pressure to use that portico to aggrandize the pedestrian entrance—placing it there even if parking is elsewhere and not easily reached, and even if students will approach the building from the opposite direction (toward the glazed elevations that face the center of campus).

Lecture hall.

Lecture hall.

Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto

So we have here really two buildings, interpenetrating: A grandiose one, its forms derived in part by the need to impress through images, generating an architecture that has mostly served its purpose before the groundbreaking. And living under the same roof—gaining little benefit from the drama outside—a neat, bright, smart series of accommodating spaces. It is a building that seems well-tempered to the needs of its users, apart from the nagging suspicion that, after paying the price charged for an architecture of desire, they will be inclined to sneak in through the back door.

The main entrance to the new business school building is at the south, beneath the bridge that joins the two volumes.

The main entrance to the new business school building is at the south, beneath the bridge that joins the two volumes.

Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto


Rutgers Business School, east façade.

Rutgers Business School, east façade.

Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto


Rutgers Business School, seen from the northeast.

Rutgers Business School, seen from the northeast.

Credit: © Peter Aaron | Esto


Drawings

Rutgers Campus Master Plan, also by TEN Arquitectos.

Rutgers Campus Master Plan, also by TEN Arquitectos.

Credit: Courtesy TEN Arquitectos


Flloor plans for levels three through five.

Flloor plans for levels three through five.

Credit: Courtesy TEN Arquitectos


Floor plans: Ground level through second floor.

Floor plans: Ground level through second floor.

Credit: Courtesy TEN Arquitectos


North-South section.

North-South section.

Credit: Courtesy TEN Arquitectos



Project Credits

Project  Rutgers Business School, Piscataway, N.J.
Client  Rutgers University
Architect  TEN Arquitectos, New York and Mexico City—Enrique Norten, Hon. FAIA (principal-in-charge); James Carse (project manager); Barbara Wilks, FAIA, Andrea Steele, AIA, Erik Martinez, Joe Murray, Shary Tawil, Wook Kang, Vahid Musah, Erik Lang, AIA, Melany Wimpee, Julian Palacio, AIA, Jae Hun Hor, Ricardo Umansky, David Maestres, Assoc. AIA, Christian Ayala (project team)
Associate Architect  Richard Bienenfeld Architect
M/E Engineer  WSP 
Structural Engineer  WSP 
Civil and Geotechnical Engineer  Langan Engineering 
Construction Manager  Structure Tone 
General Contractor  Century 21 Construction
Landscape Architect  W Architecture and Landscape Architecture
Lighting Designer  Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design
Exterior Wall  Front
Roofing  Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates
Vertical Transportation  VDA
Acoustics  Lally Acoustical Consulting
Geothermal Consultant  Concord Engineering Group
Cost Estimator  Davis Langdon
Size  143,000 square feet
Cost  $85 million (building, geothermal, and campus improvements)

Material and Sources
Carpet  Bentley Prince Street bentleyprincestreet.com
Ceilings  Armstrong armstrong.com
Concrete  County Concrete countyconcretenj.com
Flooring  Johnson Screens www.johnsonscreens.com; Key Resin keyresin.com
Glass  Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope oldcastlebe.com; Vetrotech Saint-Gobain vetrotechusa.com
Insulation  Roxul roxul.com
Metal  Centria centria.comMetalwërks metalwerksusa.comMohawk Construction and Supply Co. mohawkmetalsales.com
Millwork  Educational & Laboratory Systems allcustomwoodwork.com; Ideal Lockers ideallockers.com
Paints and Finishes  Albi albi.com; Sherwin-Williams sherwin-williams.com
Roofing  Carlisle carlisle-ccw.com; Siplast siplast.com
Seating  Sedia Systems sediasystems.com
Site and Landscape Products  Escofet escofet.com; Landscape Forms landscapeforms.com
Windows and Doors  Erie Architectural Products erieap.com; Jangho Curtain Wall janghogroup.com