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October 27, 2022
The Foster School of Business at the University of Washington is one of the oldest and most prestigious business schools in the Pacific Northwest, with a history that dates back to 1917. Over the past two decades, the business school has partnered with LMN Architects to reimagine its campus, designing an interconnected set of spaces that both foster the growth of a social ecosystem within the school and support its unique pedagogical goals.
The newest addition to the Foster School of Business complex is Founders Hall, located in the historic heart of UW Denny Yard. The building is the first UW campus building to fully utilize a mass timber structure, showcased in the central staircase that spans all five floors. The new Founders Hall, designed by LMN Architects, is a hub for entrepreneurship, innovation, and networking on campus and houses classrooms and student-serving program offices.
Informed by post-occupancy studies of PACCAR and Dempsey halls (LMN’s first two building designs for the campus development), the new Founders Hall prioritizes spaces that successfully translate into valuable learning, social, and networking connections for students, alumni, and the greater Foster School community. The building contains two tiered classrooms, designed to accommodate either 135-seat or 65-seat classes, that can support case study analysis and team-scale breakouts within the classroom.
In addition to two flexible tiered classrooms, the new building houses lounges and informal seating areas for students to study and socialize, along with dozens of team and conference-sized meeting rooms that model the types of settings and interactions the students will encounter in their professional life. Flexible program offices are located on each floor, opening directly to student-focused areas and encouraging interaction between business school faculty, staff and students. This ethos of connection is exemplified by the mass timber staircase that rises through the heart of the building, where students can stop for spontaneous interactions while looking back at the other pieces of the Foster School of Business complex through the five-story windows.
The use of mass timber has many advantages: it reduces the embodied carbon of the structure, obviates the need for added fire protection or applied finishes, and brings biophilic benefits such as stress reduction, improved cognitive performance, and enhanced moods. The building incorporates a mass timber structure with cross-laminated timber decking, reflecting the Foster School’s connection to the local wood products industry while reducing the building’s embodied carbon by almost 60%.
Reinforcing the Northwest character of the UW campus, the design team ensured that the adjacent grove of native Douglas fir and sequoia trees would not only be preserved but also integrated into the physical experience of the building. The peeled-away brick facade paired with carefully placed glazing reveals the timber inside the building while providing views of the historical Douglas firs, giving the higher floors of the building an immersive experience with the Northwest forest canopy of the campus.
Along with a focus on sustainability, the design of the building provides business students with the opportunity to connect with their peers, Foster School of Business alumni, and the greater business community. The classrooms, conference facilities, and recruiting spaces offer expanded opportunities to host events for community and corporate engagement. A rooftop terrace features impressive views of Denny Yard, the Quad, and Mount Rainier, providing a premiere backdrop for events.
The exposed timber in the interior of the building gives the space a warm and inviting ambiance, reinforcing the building’s purpose in forging new connections between students and beyond. Founders Hall quickly became one of the most in-demand spaces for work and study even before its official opening this month. Faculty and staff began using the building’s offices and meeting rooms as soon as the structure completed construction. While UW’s expansive campus does not lack student study spaces, the warm timber interior, stunning campus views, and spacious social areas attract students from all over the university.
Founders Hall is designed for resiliency with efficient floorplans, flexible for reconfiguration, and use of durable materials. While engineered mass timber structures are gaining attention as an innovative, sustainable alternative to conventional concrete and steel structures, they harken back to the long history of heavy timber structures in the Pacific Northwest that give a sought-after character to many of Seattle’s most historic buildings. The naturally daylit and ventilated office areas can be easily reconfigured from open-office layouts to enclosed offices as needs change; multiple reception spaces on each floor also allow for changing department sizes over time. The two classrooms can host a range of classes from large lectures to smaller seminars, and can adapt to different pedagogical styles, including a range of active learning modes. The highly insulated envelope and all-electric mechanical systems are resilient for increasing temperatures and our global transition away from fossil fuels.
As the Foster School of Business’s needs evolve, Founders Hall will be able to accommodate those changes for generations to come.
Founders Hall is the latest addition to the Foster School of Business complex of buildings on campus, with the intention of being a center of business student activity and networking. The building underscores the beauty and economy of sustainable design and the highly social character of business in the new century.
Kate Westbrook creates publicly engaged and highly sustainable architecture, integrating emerging technology in design, fabrication, and analysis with attention to how environments influence the human experience. Robert Smith is passionate about higher-education projects, working closely with universities’ stakeholders to determine pre-design metrics for benchmarking, project visioning, programming, design, delivery, and three post-occupancy evaluation studies.