Robert B. Rowling Hall Advances the Future of Business Education at UT
The newest learning center on the UT Austin campus houses graduate programs of Texas McCombs, including the MBA and the MS in Technology Commercialization. More than that, the hall gives faculty and students the tools to engage disruptively with an uncertain yet promising future.
By David Wenger
With the opening of its new graduate business facility, Texas McCombs has staked out a leadership position that extends generations ahead, not just in terms of student impact, but also in how business leaders will think and behave in a future that is volatile, unknown, and brimming with opportunity.
Robert B. Rowling Hall serves the graduate business students and faculty of the McCombs School. The facility is also the home of the John C. Goff Labs, the Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs, and the Center for Leadership and Ethics, as well as being an expansion site for Texas Executive Education classes and programs.
From the early stages of collaboration between university educators, Ennead Architects, alumni, students, and business leaders, five core themes were identified that would set the pattern for how the building was envisioned:
Rowling Hall is designed to convene and inspire bright minds and enterprising leaders drawn from within the university campus and beyond. The exterior plaza, ballroom, auditorium, classrooms, student lounge, study rooms, and laboratory spaces are carefully crafted to invite learning, debate, and dialogue that will change the world.
Every corner of the building, from the expansive entry hall to the Moontower Café, is intended to facilitate conversations, purposeful interactions, and idea sharing between students from across degree programs and disciplines, faculty members, program staff, alumni, recruiters, business executives, and others. These communities come together to network, share ideas, and move business forward.
Hands-on learning is on display everywhere, from the entrepreneurial activities of the Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs to the cutting-edge programs of the Center for Leadership and Ethics. Students can grow their companies in the Jon and Rebecca Brumley Accelerator or partner on experiential consulting projects around the world, using the latest technologies and idea-sharing environments such as the John C. Goff Labs.
Classrooms, conference spaces, and technology systems are designed for ultimate flexibility to match the teaching and learning approaches of modern higher education. The facility provides multiple tools for creating and communicating vital information, including an advanced studio for video and sound production and video networking capabilities. Rowling Hall allows the freedom to experiment with pedagogy and thought leadership long into the future.
Transparency is intentional throughout the building. Daylight and spectacular city perspectives are visible in the outdoor terraces, classrooms, and collaboration areas. Inside, the activities of learning centers, laboratories, and experiential learning programs are on display on every floor of the building. The inner workings of student projects, research activities, and career programs are a showcase that inspires participation and exploration.
The Rowling Hall Design Aesthetic
Located at a busy intersection at the southwest corner of campus, Rowling Hall serves simultaneously as an icon for the McCombs School and as a gateway to The University of Texas at Austin.
The building is conceived as a geode, with an elegantly appointed limestone outer perimeter that directly references the venerable buildings of the historic campus, and a faceted and glassy inner perimeter that maximizes transparency and allows the entire business school community to make visual connections across the building and the campus.
This crystalline inner perimeter is arranged around a central and public entry plaza that establishes the building as a destination, creates a dramatic sense of arrival, and contributes to the rich network of campus green spaces. The plaza also serves to connect Rowling Hall to the neighboring AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, with which it shares a common ballroom.
The university is pursuing a LEED Silver designation for the building.
Prominent Features of Rowling Hall
BALLROOM — LEVEL B4
The Zlotnik Family Ballroom leverages the convening power of the university on a grand scale with technology, hosting services, and parking to accommodate the most noteworthy of events. The ballroom pre-function area is home to Amistad América, a stunning, 4,000-square-foot mural by world-renowned artist José Parlá.
AUDITORIUM — LEVEL 1
The multi-functional auditorium is designed for sharing expertise and perspectives across disciplines and communities, including students, faculty, alumni, business leaders, and event sponsors.
MOONTOWER CAFÉ — LEVEL 1
This gathering spot offers a casual yet lively environment for caffeinating before class, sharing ideas over lunch, or brainstorming the next big thing over beer and chips. A beacon to bring people together.
BUSINESS LABS — LEVEL 1
Labs showcase hands-on learning activities where students, faculty, business partners, and alumni can see and participate in the enterprise of learning.
STUDENT LOUNGE — LEVEL 2
The lounge fosters casual and comfortable gatherings for reflection, idea sharing, and planning both before and after classes.
STUDIO CLASSROOM — LEVEL 2
More than just a classroom, the studio draws out the most creative instincts of an entrepreneurial student population of tinkerers and innovators, with space to create, store, and showcase ideas.
CLASSROOMS — LEVELS 3, 4 & 5
Varied and distinctive classrooms encourage the knowledge sharing, interaction, and innovation that transforms minds and generates solutions to vexing problems and challenges.
TERRACES — LEVELS 4 & 5
Outdoor terraces offer a breath of fresh air and inspiring views, while extending the capacity of the nearby rooms.
FACULTY LOUNGE — LEVEL 5
This gathering spot located adjacent to meeting rooms allows faculty and students to engage in discussions and experiential learning opportunities beyond the classroom.
SPECIAL EVENTS ROOM — LEVEL 5
This multipurpose space enables interactions between faculty, students, alumni, industry experts, researchers, and policymakers that enhance professional growth and understanding.