New Construction

Structure and Creativity: Bucknell Opens Holmes Hall

The new building, named to honor commitments from Steve ’79 and Bonnie Bencsko Holmes ’79, offers modern, technology-rich spaces for the Freeman College of Management and Department of Art & Art History.

By Matt Hughes

If you want to know what Holmes Hall is all about, look up.

A sculptural light fixture caps the airy atrium of Bucknell University’s newest academic building, now home to the Freeman College of Management and Department of Art & Art History. Cubes of metal dance playfully, drawing arcs of evolution amid floating points of light, organization reconfigured by creativity and inspiration.

It’s the perfect visual metaphor for Holmes Hall — and, more broadly, for Bucknell’s model of education itself. Here, top-tier liberal arts and professional programs don’t just coexist, they speak to and redefine one another.

The conversation continues as you draw your eyes left, where a peek through a second-floor window reveals the scrolling stock ticker of the Moriarty Investment Center. Swivel your head right to let your eyes rest on Rhapsody, a painting that contemporary artist and Bucknell Trustee Makoto Fujimura ’83, an art and animal behavior major, created to honor former trustee and Freeman College namesake Ken Freeman ’72.

Everywhere you look, Holmes Hall is more than a collection of classrooms and studios; it’s a forum where left- and right-brain thinkers build the future together.

“Bucknell’s rich mix of top liberal arts and professional programs prepares our students to lead lives filled with purpose and excel in the careers of today and tomorrow,” says John C. Bravman, Bucknell University president. “Holmes Hall is an expression of our institution’s distinctive prospect made tangible in brick, glass and steel.”

The building’s namesake, Trustee Steve Holmes ’79, knows well the power that lies in that interdisciplinary interplay. An accounting major at Bucknell, he took nearly enough art history courses to earn a minor, offering a broad foundation that he’s drawn on throughout his career as a leader in the travel and resorts industry. His faith in the transformative experiences Holmes Hall will offer current and future students is built on firsthand experience.

“The world needs more broad thinkers, and I think Bucknell produces broad thinkers,” Holmes said upon the building’s naming, which recognizes significant commitments by Holmes and his wife, Bonnie Bencsko Holmes ’79.

Holmes Hall interior at Bucknell University
The colorful, light-filled atrium of Holmes Hall is a forum where left- and right-brain thinkers will connect and collaborate.
Photo by Emily Paine, Bucknell Communications

Student-Centered Spaces for Collaboration and Creativity
Under construction since 2019 and opening this month for classes, the 78,500-square-foot facility at the corner of Coleman Hall Drive and South Campus Drive features an array of modern, technology-rich spaces for students in art & art history and the Freeman College of Management, as well as students from across the University studying those fields. All together, more than 1,000 students per year will study, collaborate and create in Holmes Hall.

“The opening of Holmes Hall is an exciting, momentous step in the rapid development of the Freeman College of Management,” says Raquel Alexander, the Kenneth W. Freeman Professor and dean of the Freeman College of Management. “This world-class facility further establishes our position as a premier institution for management studies and highlights the connections and collaborations across disciplines found here at Bucknell.”

“This is a Bucknell building, from its foundation to its skylights,” adds Karl Voss, the Douglas K. Candland Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “Its glass walls and open spaces create an environment that will allow us to transcend traditional institutional boundaries and follow intellectual curiosities as we envision the future of a Bucknell education.”

In addition to nearly 20 new classrooms, labs and studios, Holmes Hall houses ample collaboration spaces for rallying and reflection; a spacious auditorium, large central atrium and ground- and third-floor patios for indoor and outdoor gatherings; and arts exhibition spaces, as well as faculty offices and a management deans suite.

For the Freeman College of Management, there’s the Elfers Family Management 101 Classroom, a large, reconfigurable collaborative space wrapped in whiteboard walls for the college’s signature Management 101 course, which challenges students to build an entrepreneurial mindset from their very first year by forming their own companies. The income they earn supports an accompanying service project, offering students leadership skills in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

Students can also connect with real-world contemporary business and organizational management in the Hislop Family Auditorium, which not only offers space for 200 attendees at in-person events, but a video wall for virtual events, allowing students to interact with alumni and leaders anywhere in the world.

Case classrooms and attached “rally rooms” allow students to prepare for and participate in pitch meetings and presentations, simulating their futures in leadership, while a studio for the college’s markets, innovation & design program is custom-built for creative visioning with its large, moveable high-top collaboration stations and space dedicated to proposing and critiquing new ideas and designs.

Perhaps the building’s most forward-looking space is the analytics classroom for the Freeman College’s new major in business analytics. Hosting a wall-spanning touchscreen smartboard and multiple projectors connected to student work pods, the room provides the big spaces needed to draw insights from big data.

Mihai Banciu, professor of analytics & operations management and associate dean of faculty for the Freeman College of Management, says the combination studio-classroom “allows students to ideate, model and tweak on their own at their group pods, but also to come together as a class and work through problems or data sets together with the instructor. Our philosophy is that analytics is both an art and a science, and the classroom space should reflect that duality.”

Art & art history students will find airy, open spaces that can be reconfigured and adapted for what moves them. In addition to classrooms with high-resolution projectors for zooming in on classic and contemporary artworks, the building houses a new painting studio illuminated by expansive skylights and windows angled to maximize natural light, as well as ample track lighting for casting just the right shadows.

But there’s one place you won’t find windows: the analog studio, where photography classes will both study and develop film. Combined with computer labs for digital photo processing, the studio allows students more space to build skills in all aspects of the craft.

Innovative tools like 3D printers and a laser cutter can be found in a new digital fabrication studio, while tackboard-lined halls and a first-floor exhibition space, meanwhile, offer abundant room to showcase completed work and critique and reflect on work still developing.

For Tulu Bayar, chair of the Department of Art & Art History, these spaces unite to form the perfect environment for cultivating “a remarkable and forward-thinking next generation of artists, designers, art historians and scholars, gallery and museum professionals, art entrepreneurs, dealers, collectors and philanthropists.”

“The interactive, accessible, experimental and participative teaching spaces will allow students to cooperate in the creation of knowledge by actively participating in the aesthetic process and the process of research alike,” Bayar says. “But most importantly, the arts give language to young people who otherwise would not have language that speaks to life and life potentials. Should we subtract the arts from our culture, we would not have very much left at all. Holmes Hall is the visual manifestation of this fundamental thinking."

Built for the Future
The former homes for the Freeman College and Art & Art History (Taylor Hall and the Art Building) each served Bucknell for more than a century — and will continue to do so as repurposed spaces. Holmes Hall is likewise built for the future, and it’s designed with sustainability at its core. The building was constructed to meet or exceed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold, the global standard for sustainable building design and construction.

The building’s orientation was built to maximize passive lighting, heating and cooling through an abundance of natural light, while four rain gardens outside capture runoff not just from Holmes Hall but from other buildings around it, allowing rainwater to soak into the ground rather than the nearby Susquehanna River. In a first for Bucknell, the building’s insulating features were tested and verified by an independent consultant, to ensure they are working as intended. Other sustainably designed features include chilled beam cooling — one of the most energy-efficient systems available — and a touch-screen monitoring system that allows users to view the building’s energy usage in near-real time.

Holmes Hall’s large and flexible teaching spaces were likewise built to anticipate future needs while providing tools to unlock transformative experiences for Bucknell students today.

One of those students, Alexander Greenawald ’23, an arts merit scholar and studio art major from Canonsburg, Pa., says there’s an excitement building in their department to dive into those spaces and to see the work that art students create showcased in a lively forum at the heart of Bucknell’s campus.

“Having a building closer to the center of campus will greatly improve the artistic presence at Bucknell moving forward,” Greenawald says. “I think it will be beneficial for management students to share a space with art, and hopefully, it will encourage more students to take classes in both arts and management. We can all learn from each other.”

Matt Hughes is the Senior Associate Director, Content Strategy for Bucknell University and the Associate Editor for Bucknell Magazine.