On Site with KSS: Rowan University's Rohrer College of Business

This summer, KSS team members responsible for the design of the new College of Business gathered staff from both offices onto the Rowan campus in Glassboro, NJ. The educational tour was open to staff of all levels and disciplines, who were led through the site and learned about the design choices, key issues, lessons learned, and critical technical challenges. Ben Poulin from KSS Architects discusses Rowan University’s Rohrer College of Business — and dives into what the new $63M facility means for the school, the state, and the firm.

A rendering of the Rowan University Rohrer College of BusinessA rendering of the Rowan University Rohrer College of Business

What’s the project about?

BP: The new Rohrer College of Business is an academic facility that will support the growth of the Rohrer College of Business program, Rowan University, and economic development. The Facility will house the college of business, double the College of Business enrollment to 2,000, and distinguish the purpose of Rohrer “to engage and support South Jersey business”. The College of Business conveys Rowan’s stature as a New Jersey Research University by creating an iconic building that acknowledges Rowan’s history while reflecting its aspirations for the future. With significant funding through New Jersey’s Building our Future Bond Act, this facility represents a public investment for the greater community good and a stronger New Jersey.

The future of the business school includes outreach and support for local high school students, nurturing college student success, and enabling regional growth to enrich South Jersey. Collaborations with community, industry and businesses, and campus constituents will activate the spaces with a holistic approach to sustainable college growth.

The program and design optimally serves the needs of Rohrer College of Business by organizing the building to be efficient, encourage collaboration, and reflect a sense of common purpose. The building also functions as a visually striking gateway to the Rowan campus — now and in anticipation of a future when more buildings may be built to the west.

Did the construction tour illuminate the importance of any design choices?

BP: Exploring the project in its current state offered a stronger understanding of the design decisions made to emphasize a sense of place on the Rowan campus. The facility acts as a clear indicator of entrance to the campus off Route 322 with its glass tower along Mullica Hill. Being on site emphasized the significance of the rotunda, which will house a future art installation, its back patio, and the meditation walk, which ties into the rest of the campus infrastructure and circulation.

Construction walk through

On the interior of the building, our group discovered a wide variety of spaces nearing completion: classrooms, a financial trading room, lab classrooms, an open computer lab, a student business hatchery, and a large event space as well as an informal lounge “The Hub” for students and faculty. Walking through the spaces helped explain how our team made key decisions to best address all the needs for an expanding business college.

How does the experience of being on the construction site inform future design phases?

BP: Visiting the site allows us to see what we draw in our offices in three dimensions; a meaningful aspect of these educational tours is that it allows us to see that the conceptual lines we put down on a sheet directly impacts on what goes up in the field. This experience reinforces our awareness to take care and maintain diligence in the earliest phases — such as figuring out and solving the unique conditions, which are found in each project that comes through the design process.

Active, hands-on sharing of lessons learned and the real-life design decisionsActive, hands-on sharing of lessons learned and the real-life design decisions

Personally, one of the greatest values of being on construction sites is the opportunity to discover the unique approaches and design issues. It gives us a chance to look at design solutions that we have come up with in the office, so we can consider implementing these methods on future endeavors. This practical, in-field sharing of knowledge and expertise is an exciting and effective way to educate younger staff.

Additionally, the construction tour at Rowan gave us, as architects, a window into the complex world of construction. We, as a group, were able to learn from experts in other industries and from each other- listening to partners, project managers, and architects that touched all the aspects of this job, by seeing the implementation of our previous design decisions.

Being at the Rohrer College of Business site solidified years of coordination and design. The experience made tangible the hard work and planning to create intelligent solutions that responded to issues that arise throughout the project. Each line and detail comes together to widen Rowan’s horizons and become a globally-recognized institution.

In the news:

NJ.com, “Rowan University marks next steps toward business school with beam-signing event

Courier Post, “Rowan Marks New Building’s Milestone

Philadelphia Business Journal, “Rowan breaks ground on new $63M business school

Philadelphia Business Journal, “Why Rowan is the new Drexel