Parallel facade systems in contrasting materials mark the edge of development on a reimagined campus.
The new Rutgers Business School in Piscataway, New Jersey, is more than a collection of classrooms and offices. The building, designed by TEN Arquitectos, is a linchpin of the university’s Livingston campus, reconceived as an urban center for graduate studies and continuing education. “It established a frame,” said project manager James Carse, whose firm created a vision plan for the campus starting in the late 2000s. “We were interested in really marking the edge of campus to motivate future development to respect the campus boundary, rather than allowing or suggesting that this was a pervasive sprawl. We wanted to make sure this would set a pattern where infill would happen.” The Rutgers Business School’s tripartite envelope reinforces the distinction between outside and inside. While the sides of the building facing the boundary line are enclosed in folded anodized aluminum panels, the glass curtain walls opposite create a visual dialogue with the rest of campus.
In TEN Arquitectos’ early designs, the difference between the building’s outer and inner surfaces was not so stark. “We initially thought of [the entire envelope] as being more open,” said Carse. But budget constraints combined with university requirements regarding glazing in classrooms to suggest that the architects move away from an all-glass enclosure. “There was an ability to deploy the curtain wall over only a certain amount of the building in a responsible way,” said Carse. “We let the inside push back against the outside and suggest that this be more solid.”
At the same time, explained Carse, “we didn’t want it to feel unchanging and heavy.” Working with Front Inc., TEN Arquitectos designed an anodized aluminum rain screen system, manufactured by Mohawk Metal Manufacturing & Sales, that incorporates an apparently random fold pattern to provide texture. (Thorton Tomasetti provided additional consulting and inspection services during construction.) After making aesthetic modifications in Rhino and 3ds Max, the architects ran their digital model through eQUEST energy analysis software to determine an angle of inclination that would prevent snow from accumulating on the folds. They came up with four standard dimensions that could be combined for a varied effect. “It’s a pretty amazing condition that’s been created with the variegated folded panels that face Avenue E and preserve and pick up the western sunlight as the sun sets,” said Carse. “The building changes throughout the day and picks up texture from its surroundings. The anodized aluminum plays off that nature of change and creates a softer facade than you’d expect from the use of metal itself.”
The campus-facing sides of the building feature frit glass curtain walls fabricated by Beijing Jangho Curtain Wall Co. (Jangho) with glass from Xinyi Glass Holdings Limited. “We used the fritted glass to meet the solar performance that we were going for without completely exposing them,” said Carse, who noted that the walls appear nearly transparent at dusk and later, when the interior lights are on. “That’s part of the nature of the building,” he said. “The business school itself has classes going from around 8:30 a.m. until about 10 p.m., so the daily life is not just during the day. The building is really alive during those times and we wanted to make that evident.” During the day, the frit glass facade’s extra-wide mullions maximize the amount of daylight that filters into the offices and classrooms.
The third component of the Rutgers Business School envelope is a transparent glass curtain wall introduced between the two primary facade systems. Besides serving as an intermediary between the anodized aluminum and frit glass surfaces, the transparent glass elements mark possible points of connection to future buildings as the campus continues to densify. “It allowed us infill,” said Carse.
“This project served as a gateway building literally and figuratively,” said Carse. Cars entering campus from Route 18 pass directly through the Rutgers Business School building, its upper stories perched on canted columns. Though designed to indicate the campus’s outside edge—the end of development—the structure’s vital facade simultaneously signals a beginning, a freshly urban approach to campus design within a former suburban stronghold.