If you’ve looked up in Oakland recently, you may have noticed that — for the first time in years — the skyline is changing.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business (ranked #7 by U.S. News & World Report for undergraduate business) is growing fast, and will move into the massive, new yellow brick building rising over Forbes Avenue this summer.

The David Tepper Quadrangle, or Tepper Quad, is currently being constructed for $201 million, sparked by a $67 million gift by investor and alumnus David Tepper. The Tepper School of Business is expected to grow its enrollment by 40 percent, and master’s degree students by 50 percent.

At more than 300,000 square feet, the Tepper Quad will feature a 600-seat auditorium, fitness center and places to eat and meet. It will also house the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, and provide a place for students to start companies of their own. It’s designed for maximum flexibility, with all kinds of natural meeting points to foster chance encounters.

“We’re designing ‘accidental meeting spaces’ into the building,” says Bob Reppe, director of design for Campus Design and Facilities Development.

“You’re a robot; I’m a spreadsheet,” says Bryan Routledge, associate professor of finance. “We meet and get coffee. Pretty soon, there’s a business.”

The Tepper Quad will replace the giant surface parking lots on Forbes Ave.

“From the Tepper School perspective, the big move is from the edge of campus to the center of campus,” says Routledge.

A broad green space will point towards The Cut, connecting the Tepper Quad with the central part of the campus. The yellow brick exterior is distinctive, yet familiar.

“It reminds you of the Kittanning brick in the original (architect Henry) Hornbostel buildings,” says Routledge. “It’s connecting CMU to Oakland in a way it hasn’t been. It’s moving the campus physically towards Oakland.”

Inside, rooms are wide open, with few barriers; long, dark hallways are virtually nonexistent.

Wide staircases circle around a central atrium, so you can look up and see students walking by on multiple levels. 

Tepper Quad at Carnegie Mellon University. Photo courtesy of Tepper School of Business.

The layout is complex — less so than the famously confusing Gates Center across Forbes, but more than the elegant Hornbostel-designed buildings that make up CMU’s historic core.

A tech product called “BubbleDeck” — basically, lots of plastic-coated air bubbles inside the cement — makes the floors lighter. This, in turn, requires less obvious support beams to break up the open spaces.

“Most of what you’re standing on is air,” notes Routledge. “It’s the largest BubbleDeck in North America, currently.”

BubbleDeck in Tepper Quad. Photo courtesy of Tepper School of Business.

The building is designed to a LEED Gold standard of sustainability, by Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners of Santa Monica and Renaissance 3 Architects of Pittsburgh. PJ Dick is handling the construction.

It’s assumed that how students learn will change, so the building should be able to change with them. The only constants are the power sources for plugging in laptops, which seem to be everywhere.

The Department of Modern Languages also has a lab in the building, for trying new approaches to learning language.

“Imagine you’re teaching French while wearing virtual reality goggles, so it seems like you’re sitting at a Parisian cafe,” says Routledge. Oui! 

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.