Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders College of Business – Max Lowenthal Hall

A Contemporary Design Approach to a Modernist Structure

This multimillion-dollar expansion and renovation project at Max Lowenthal Hall provided roughly 80% more space for the Saunders College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Comprised of four floors and approximately 36,000 square feet, the building now offers cutting-edge teaching and learning spaces, opportunities for innovative research, a food venue, student lounges, an auditorium, and state-of-the-art event and collaboration spaces featuring two outdoor terraces.

Max Lowenthal Hall is a modernist structure from the 1970s designed by famed architect Robert Macon. The overall design approach sought to honor the architectural language of the existing building while reinterpreting materials to present them in a more modern way. The design also incorporates essential elements of applied learning and collaboration.

Out-of-the-Box Design

The addition to Lowenthal Hall honored the original 1970s building through a reinterpretation of its modernist detailing and material palette consisting of brick, wood, and concrete. Located within the addition are areas of cast concrete, found near the featured staircase and balcony. Concrete panels clad columns and line floor openings adjacent to a three-story feature wall. The large-format tile of the feature wall transitions from the wall up to the ceiling. Extra care was taken to match the oak wood tones of the existing wood ceiling in the linear metal wood-look ceiling of the addition.

Similarly, the exterior phenolic rainscreen panels were selected to complement the modernist palette. While referencing the rhythm of deep brick recesses along the original façade, the addition incorporates significantly more glass, creating a healthy environment that is conducive to learning. To prevent excessive solar heat gain, several elements were integrated into the design, including ceramic fritting within the glazing, custom building-mounted louvers, and strategic shading inherent to the building massing.

Related Services

A Full-Service Approach

In addition to the architectural and interior design elements of this project, LaBella’s in-house team provided full MEP, civil, and environmental services.

Exterior Design

The exterior form takes cues from the undulations of the existing structure, creating stark vertical shadow reveals while allowing for increased levels of transparency and glass. As such, it was necessary to avoid excessive solar heat gain through the integration of ceramic fritting and custom building-mounted louvers, in addition to strategic sun shading provided by the building form itself.

Interior Design

The interior incorporates diverse opportunities for informal learning and lounge/break-out areas, which had previously been lacking. The circulation connects to every floor of the existing building to eliminate dead ends and provide a “racetrack” of fluid movement throughout. Wayfinding is improved by creating clear axes with visual cues, including a feature wall that extends up through all of the floors. Furthermore, a small floor opening adjacent to the feature wall provides uninterrupted views from the first floor to the fourth, orienting visitors.

Views from the addition were also carefully considered. The south side of the building overlooks the wetland and hills, while the east side enjoys views of the fields and courts, and the north side overlooks the buzzing Quarter Mile. The design was strategically situated to show prominence in these areas.


The HVAC system consists of four high-efficiency, single-zone variable air volume (VAV) units that provide heating, cooling, and ventilation for all spaces. These gas-fired, direct expansion (DX) units serve multiple zones via VAV boxes that incorporate hot water reheat coils. The boiler plant consists of two high-efficiency, gas-fired condensing boilers serving reheat coils, panel radiators or in-floor radiant heating systems at the building’s perimeters, and snowmelt systems at the building’s main entrances.


As part of the addition, the existing main distribution switchgear was upgraded to provide power and support the addition. The new switchgear continues to supply the existing portion of the building as well as the various panels required to feed the new faculty offices, classrooms, auditorium, and event space. The existing IT infrastructure was extended to the addition via the installation of a new fiber connection. The fire alarm system was able to be reused and extended to support the addition.

Coordination between the electrical, architectural, and interior teams brought specialized lighting to study nooks, collaboration spaces, and a three-story feature wall. Designed with flexibility in mind, the event space features a multitude of power and data locations for any type of event layout, as well as multiple lighting zones for fine-tuned controls.

Plumbing & Fire Protection

The addition is fed by an electric water heater with master mixing valve and domestic hot water recirculation in conformance with 2020 NYS Energy Conservation Code. All plumbing fixtures are a high-efficiency type. A natural gas system provides gas to rooftop units and boilers. The fully sprinklered addition features a control valve on each floor for ease of maintenance and isolation, and a Class 1 manual standpipe system coordinated with the Town of Henrietta.


Our environmental team worked with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to secure a building permit that both protected the wetland adjacent to our site and enabled the project to be completed successfully.


The site grading was carefully considered to ensure that both entrances are ADA accessible. A landscaped “island” to the north of the building helps define the plaza in front of the building while maintaining room for an event tent for special occasions. All sanitary, water, electric, gas, and telecommunications/data utilities were connected to existing mains located below the pedestrian walkway immediately north of the site.

Views from the addition were carefully considered. The south side of the building overlooks the wetland and hills, the east side enjoys views of the athletic fields and courts, and the north side overlooks the buzzing Quarter Mile.
The Susan R. Holliday Center, a premier, multifunctional event venue that also serves as a learning laboratory for hospitality-related programs.
An Award-Winning Project

RIT’s Lowenthal Hall Receives 2024 CSI Rochester Award in the Out-of-the-Box Category!

In May 2024, LaBella and the Rochester Institute of Technology were honored to receive a 2024 Out-of-the-Box Design Award from CSI Rochester New York Chapter for the Max Lowenthal Hall expansion project. This award highlights projects that promote the innovative use of conventional materials or methods in new ways.