KU School of Architecture & Design announces appointment of Bjarke Ingels Group to complete space planning and design

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Architecture & Design has announced that it has retained Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to complete space planning, programming, and concept design for the multidisciplinary design school.

Aerial view of main School of Architecture & Design facilities.

After a decade of increasing enrollment numbers and expanded program offerings, the school is working to transform its facilities to accommodate recent growth and upgrade academic spaces in alignment with KU's 2024 Master Plan. BIG architects are assisting school and university stakeholders to develop design strategies that will allow for program growth while also enhancing spatial and disciplinary connections between academic programs. By taking advantage of existing facility strengths in the heart of KU’s Lawrence campus, BIG will develop a plan that visualizes a redesigned home for the school that respects the established character of the site while also being optimized for innovative teaching and research.

“Our two departments have long had a special place on Jayhawk Boulevard. BIG’s response to our facility needs will celebrate this rich history while also helping us to envision new opportunities to teach and support students,” said Mahbub Rashid, dean of the school. “Their team’s enthusiasm for the project, the firm’s record of forward-thinking design excellence and commitment to an inclusive, equitable and sustainable future makes them a perfect partner for us.”

The KU School of Architecture & Design is a professional design school offering undergraduate and graduate programs in architecture, interior architecture and design. The school currently occupies several large buildings in the historic district of KU’s Lawrence campus and has additional facilities on and off campus in the area. Two adjacent buildings – Marvin and Chalmers halls – hold the majority of academic, research, administrative and faculty office spaces; additional buildings house academic space and specialized research and fabrication labs. This configuration — which is in large part due to the legacy of the architecture and design departments being housed in separate schools prior to the 2009 unification of KU professional design programs into one unit — has been a successful response to changing space needs thus far. And building renovations have created new facility strengths. The need for increased space will allow for the development of enhanced physical connections between academic programs, multidisciplinary labs and student support services.

"For an architect, each project is kicked off with a crash course seeking to educate ourselves in an entirely new field, because we rarely design for other architects (they tend to do that themselves). In this case – with our first design for a school of architecture and design – I feel like I have been preparing for this on a daily basis for the last three decades,” said BIG founder and creative director Bjarke Ingels, who enrolled in the Royal Danish Academy of Arts School of Architecture and Design in 1993. “We want to create the physical framework for future generations of Kansas form-givers, architects and designers – a space that provokes unexpected encounters, triggers critical conversations and builds new bridges between discourses and skill sets, arts, crafts and technologies. The design work is just about to begin, even if my research for it started a generation ago.”

Founded in 2005, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) is based in Copenhagen and New York City and has offices in London, Barcelona and Shenzhen. This year, it will add another office in Los Angeles. BIG’s practice includes architecture, planning, landscape, urbanism, interior design, product design, research and development. It has completed a variety of education environments around the world. Recent academic projects include the Claremont McKenna Integrated Science Building and Campus Masterplan, Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Johns Hopkins Student Center in Baltimore and Glasir College in Torshavn, Faroe Islands. BIG also designed the 1.2-square-mile Google Bay View Campus, which uses a large canopy to regulate light, climate, air quality and sound.

On March 9-10, architects from BIG’s project team will be on the KU campus to study existing facilities and conduct workshops with stakeholders. At 1 p.m. March 10 in The Forum at Marvin Hall, architects will host a public presentation and Q&A session. The presentation will also be livestreamed and recorded. Upcoming event details and project updates will be posted on this webpage.

On April 13-14, BIG will present analysis and initial concepts to KU leaders and the School of Architecture & Design Professional Advisory Board. In June, BIG will present completed project documents and renderings.

BIG was chosen from a group of four architecture firms that presented proposals to a selection committee made up of school and university leadership in January. The finalist teams were selected from a group of national and international firms who responded to a call for submissions drafted by Rashid with help from a taskforce composed of design industry leaders who also assisted in developing a set of evaluation criteria.

Wed, 03/08/2023


Dan Rolf

Media Contacts

Dan Rolf

Architecture & Design