Clemson University Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Clemson, South Carolina

Project Size:

160,000 square feet

Project Status:

Completed 2020


Education Design

Associate Architect:

LS3P Associates Ltd.

A business school is a future-focused proposition, preparing students for collaboration on an interpersonal, organizational, and global scale. Clemson University needed its new College of Business facility to reflect a new paradigm of learning, with leading-edge spaces designed for an evolving future. The building would front historic Bowman Field, a campus anchor and the site of the University’s first athletic event in 1896.

Good stewardship of this hallowed site was a foundational requirement. As the first academic building in this campus precinct in over a century, the building needed to define a new campus gateway and strengthen the “town and gown” connection between the university and the city. The once-in-a-generation opportunity would create a new home- and an exciting future- for business programs. The building needed to accommodate diverse learning modalities, and to honor the past as well as the future. The Dean’s overarching goal was perhaps most important: to build a place that students wouldn’t want to leave.

The site’s salient attribute, a 40’ hill between Bowman Field and the student residences above, became the greatest challenge and greatest asset. Capitalizing on the dramatic topography, the team envisioned the hill climb as a defining feature akin to the Spanish Steps. The form- a larger volume canted to align with the hill, connected to a linear bar -frames the terraced exterior stair and plazas. The materiality of the design mirrors the hill itself, with grounded concrete elements and earthy tiles forming a metaphorical retaining wall at ground level transitioning to light, airy, upward-reaching materials as the building rises. A veil of white vertical slats in the atrium draws the eye skyward. A monumental interior stair parallels the hill climb, inviting students into the building at various levels as they traverse the hill.

The form and detailing engage the datum set by the massing of the student residences above. The processional sequence leads students from the lower plaza through terraced informal gathering spaces to a promenade at the top, knitting together residential, academic, and social spaces. The voluminous atrium is designed for connection in every sense of the word. Gathering areas, adaptable furnishings, and touchdown spaces accommodate a variety of tasks. 

The project has substantially raised the College’s profile, with the MBA program named as one of the top 30 on the Princeton Review and a recent $60 million donation – the largest in the history of the University – to support scholarship and programs. For the campus, this formerly peripheral site now anchors a thriving new hub of activity. The facility doubles the College’s former footprint while consolidating programs housed in five separate buildings under one roof, strengthening the community and streamlining operations. According to Dean Wendy York, “The building and our academic direction are becoming a launchpad for students to become revolutionary change agents who will make positive contributions to business and industry in South Carolina, across our nation and beyond.”