9 February 2022. As a prototype for the university of the future, SQUARE becomes a place of surprising encounters and mutual inspiration. Here, outstanding minds from business, politics and culture meet students, lecturers and HSG alumni. In the 21st century, ideas and innovations are created in teams, at the interface of different perspectives, interests and biographies. The exchange across professional and social boundaries is more important today than ever before.
SQUARE helps build the skills needed to do this: in contemporary courses for current students, but also in a public program for alumni and interested parties. Of course, SQUARE makes use of all the modern digital possibilities of interaction, but this alone would not have required the construction of the extraordinary building with 15 rooms that can be modulated in different sizes: On three floors, architect Fujimoto has created a place where boundaries in the mind can be overcome and walls in the building can be shifted with ease. While it is open downstairs, where it can and should be noisy, it becomes all the more quiet and intimate upstairs, but just as interactive and conducive to exchange.
"Inspiration for the entire HSG"
Over 1000 alumni and alumnae of the University of St.Gallen, the initial supporters and donors of this project, donated a total of around 65 million Swiss francs to the HSG Foundation to make SQUARE a reality. The first pledges were made back in 2016 and SQUARE was finally built in just two years, from November 2019 to November 2021. Groundbreaking was in May 2020.
"I am deeply impressed by the commitment of our alumni," says Prof. Dr. Bernhard Ehrenzeller, President of the University of St.Gallen. "To be able to realize a project of this magnitude and relevance entirely through private donations is remarkable – and shows how strongly many of our alumni remain connected to their HSG." SQUARE contributes significantly to the further development of HSG, President Bernhard Ehrenzeller continued. "The new learning and teaching formats being developed in SQUARE should inspire the entire University and prepare our students for the real world in the best possible way."
The vision becomes reality: follow the major milestones of the future project SQUARE here.
SQUARE gets an artistic director
Now it is the task of the University to bring SQUARE to life. To this end, SQUARE will be uniquely managed – namely by an artistic director (“Intendant”), a term normally reserved for directors found in the world of art and culture. In this sense, the building can only be filled building meaningfully if it offers an excellent program: with personalities, exhibitions, discussions, musical events, and spontaneous gatherings.
Many of these personalities will come from HSG itself: in its faculty, among its current and former students, and its employees, who are engaged in all walks of life. Other personalities for SQUARE will come from outside the HSG community: from other universities, from other regions and countries, from all scientific and professional fields. St.Gallen residents will be expressly included.
"The strong identification of the entire university community with the HSG and the commitment to excellence are a great advantage that will contribute to the success of SQUARE”, says Intendant Philippe Narval. "Creative skills are not a black box or voodoo. Today, we know what it takes to enable innovation. SQUARE offers the best conditions for this."
Among SQUARE's goals is to make HSG more experiential and designable. This is based on three essential tasks that faculty, alumni and students have developed together:
SQUARE is an "experimental field" for new formats of learning and teaching. What has proven to be successful here is also to be implemented elsewhere, inside and outside the University of St.Gallen. For the spring semester of 2022, the teaching working group has selected more than 80 existing teaching events that will take place and will be evaluated in the new teaching and learning environment. These events will be specially supervised and promoted in the SQUARE.
SQUARE is also a "base camp": students as well as alumni and alumnae should be able to collaborate with researchers and interested parties in an inspiring environment. Of course, there are also hard facts to be learned. But working and dealing with these facts in a casual atmosphere can lead to better solutions. The "Personality in Residence" format, for example, guarantees the inclusion of different perspectives: People from diverse professions and social groups come to the SQUARE and actively contribute to programs. For 2022, around a dozen personalities have already agreed to spend several days in residence: in the spring semester of 2022, they include Paul Achleitner, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Bank, Gabriele Fischer, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the German business magazine "Brand eins," and Swiss Federal Chancellor Walter Thurnherr.
In addition, SQUARE is a "portal", like a marketplace, a public space for critical discourse for those who are not current or former members of the University of St.Gallen. In order to bring them all – neighbours, St.Gallen residents, and guests from near and far – to SQUARE, a very open atmosphere is needed that invites them to linger. Thus, the exchange should also take place with music, fine barista coffee or (specially brewed) beer.
SQUARE Open House – Opening event for the public
On Sunday, February 13, 2022, HSG invites the public to discover SQUARE. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors can freely explore the building or take part in a guided tour. HSG members and students are happy to engage in conversation with the public. Registration is not required. For SQUARE Open House, 2G+ applies: admission only for those vaccinated or recovering with a negative test certificate. Rapid tests will be offered free of charge on site.
Image: Chris Mansfield