Tulane University celebrated the completion of a $35 million renovation of its Goldring/Woldenberg Business Complex on Friday, just days after construction crews began work on a three-story, $55 million dining hall and "gathering space" on the Uptown campus.
The work is funded by some of the proceeds of a $1.3 billion fundraising campaign that began six years ago. Tulane said in December that it had raised $820 million so far, or more than 60 percent of the goal.
The Goldring/Woldenberg project involved linking two existing buildings with a 42,000-square-foot addition.
The first of the two buildings, known as GWI, houses the business school's administration and career services offices and primarily serves undergraduate students. It opened in 1986.
The second, GWII, houses a trading room to teach courses on energy, risk management, equities and options, as well as the school's centers and institutes, and faculty and program offices. That building opened in 2003.
The newly combined buildings have a total of 80,000 square feet of new or renovated space. The new complex was completed on schedule.
“We’re thrilled with the design; we’re thrilled with the construction,” Ira Solomon, the business school's dean, said of the project, which was designed by Connecticut-based architects Pelli Clark Pelli and New Orleans-based Manning Architects.
Traditional classrooms with tiered seating have given way to glass-enclosed rooms with open floor plans that the business school says will be more flexible and improve collaboration and student engagement. The main facade was curved to allow for the preservation of the live oaks along McAlister Drive.
Solomon said the new layout of the classrooms reflects changes in the way business schools educate their students, which he said is a far cry from what it was when he was an undergraduate four decades ago.
As for the glass walls, he said, “we have put learning on display. We’re filling the building with a sense of life, excitement and the vibrancy you’d expect when you’re part of a business school community.”
The rear portion of the complex, which opens up to the open space known as the Monroe Quad, is now a gathering spot that includes a coffee shop and a display of hundreds of informational tiles displayed on touchscreens that allow people to learn about the school's legacy.
Solomon said the complex will have permanent and rotating art collections. The permanent collection will be of works by women who are current and former faculty and students. The rotating collections will come from the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Newcomb Art Museum.
In the last six years, the A.B. Freeman School of Business has grown from 1,350 undergraduate students to 2,122, and from 600 graduate students to 900.
Tulane spokesman Keith Brannon said this growth is nearly 10 times the rate for the average accredited business school in North America during the same period.
Meanwhile, a couple of blocks away and across Newcomb Drive from the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, work on The Commons is underway.
Projected to open in 2019, The Commons will house a new dining hall, multipurpose meeting spaces and a permanent home for the Newcomb College Institute.
Fundraising is ongoing for the project, but when completed it will be a gathering place for students to come together with faculty and staff and “help broaden the intellectual life of the university,” Tulane officials said.
It will connect to the western end of the existing Lavin-Bernick Center with a second-floor walkway.
Two floors of the new facility will offer multiple dining options and 1,100 seats for eating, studying and conversation. The Commons will also include space for programs hosted by student organizations and residential colleges and will be open late to accommodate students' schedules.
“At their best, universities bring together people from every corner of the world and connect them in the most unexpected ways,” Tulane President Mike Fitts said. “Spaces like The Commons create these moments of synchronicity, where ideas are born and problems are solved.”
With The Commons, all of the Newcomb College Institute’s operations will be in a single location, and the third floor will feature an open-air courtyard, an area for archives and special collections, a library with a dedicated reading room, event space and offices for the Newcomb Alumnae Association.
The new space for the institute will allow for more programming by student groups that now takes place at the Lavin-Bernick Center, which is often booked up.
When The Commons is completed, crews will demolish the existing Bruff Commons building to make room for the beginnings of the new campus housing plan.