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Harvard Business School
Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center for Executive Education

Harvard Business School (HBS) wanted a vibrant hub for its Executive Education programs and the 10,000+ executives who enroll in these programs each year. Our team tackled two core objectives: uniting the look and feel of the Executive Education quadrangle with the rest of the historic HBS campus, and creating a truly collaborative social hub that welcomes the entire community.

  • Location



    Practice area


Creating a unified social hub

From small spaces for close, informal connection to a large dining area for the entire program, an emphasis on community interaction informed every detail of our design. An open forum at the heart of the building functions as a relaxed and welcoming central living room; its prominent gathering stair invites visitors to linger in its comfortable platform area. Lounges, project rooms, terraces, social spaces, and a large dining room all radiate from the forum, enriching learning by encouraging HBS’s diverse executive education community to informally convene.

This building creates a new heart for executive education; dining, social, and academic programs coalesce beneath one green roof.
Given the position of the Chao Center at the nexus of the historic campus and the emerging Executive Education precinct, the greatest challenge was in complementing both Neo-Georgian and emerging contemporary architecture. Goody Clancy got it exactly right.
Andrew O’BrienChief of Operations, Harvard Business School
The Chao Center sits at the terminus of Harvard Way, the spine of the historic McKim, Mead & White campus.

A bridge between worlds

The Chao Center’s two main entrances provided a unique opportunity to connect distinct parts of the HBS campus by seamlessly contrasting traditional architecture with emerging modern design. The west entrance–which faces the historic campus–features a rotunda that celebrates the school’s neo-Georgian architectural heritage, while the building’s east-facing three-story glazed entrance presents a more forward-looking vision. The result is a space that reflects its legacy campus while conveying the openness, transparency, and engagement that define 21st century business.

The three-story tower is the main entrance from the Executive Education Quadrangle to the east. Its openness and transparency invite pedestrians to walk in and through the building.
The main entrance rotunda creates a stylistic link between the legacy HBS campus and its newest quadrangle.
In addition to the main entries, the north facade was designed to engage with current and future executive housing—providing long-term value to an institution that is constantly evolving. 

A multi-faceted destination

The Chao Center is a modern, dynamic social hub that welcomes Executive Education students and the larger HBS community to network, collaborate, and innovate. Its rich mix of programs encourage connection and provide environments conducive to quiet, individual study, or campus-wide functions.

Dining for up to 500 executive education participants occurs on the second floor of the Center. The dining space can be divided into three rooms via wood-paneled overhead operable partitions, or opened to its full length for larger events. The Center includes loading, kitchen, bakery, and servery space to prepare and serve high-quality meal options for a variety of dietary requirements.

Ample space, minimal carbon footprint

A large energy footprint is typically unavoidable for a space with the mechanical and dining requirements of the Chao Center, but our team dug deep to meet HBS’s aggressive sustainability targets. A green roof, PV panels, stormwater recharge, variable ventilation systems, and permeable paving all help to combat heat island effects and reduce the building’s environmental footprint, while a whole-building blower door test ensured that the Chao Center’s envelope is one of the tightest in North America. The finished Center achieved LEED Gold certification and a 37-percent reduction in total building energy costs.

Users enjoy views of the surrounding HBS legacy campus from the green roof.
The center’s green roof helps combat the heat island effect and includes a culinary herb garden, which supports the dining program.
Goody Clancy framed decisions on complex issues in a way that enabled us to act quickly and decisively, maintaining the project’s momentum. The result is a project that exceeded our expectations.
Andrew O’BrienChief of Operations, Harvard Business School
Project impact
  • 37%

    Overall energy cost savings compared to baseline via a green roof, robust building envelope, and rooftop PV panels

  • 57%

    Of site is vegetated open space

  • 0.09 ACH

    @75Pa: air infiltration per whole-building blower door testing

As the School evolves, the Chao Center will become a gateway. It has been programmed to be a hub that connects all parts of our community.
Nitin NohriaProfessor of Business Administration, former Dean of Harvard Business School

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Project Team


Atelier Ten

CSL Consulting

The Design Initiative

Haley & Aldrich

HB Communications

Hecht Horton Partners

Jensen Hughes

Lee Kennedy Company

LeMessurier Consultants

Nitsch Engineering

Reed Hilderbrand Associates

Ricca Design Studios



Vertran Enterprises



Robert Benson

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