The President's Report on the State of the University
The Campus Master Plan: A Work in Progress
In the past year I have spoken with you often about the progress of
Agenda for Excellence, the University's strategic plan. Today I would like to
devote my report to a part of campus life that is integral to the success of
Agenda for Excellence--and Penn--and that is the campus master plan.
One of the metaphors that the Provost and I have used to describe
Agenda for Excellence is that of "pathways." Each pathway at Penn leads--quite
literally--to some exciting place of study, research, or recreation. You might hurry to class beneath the leafy overhangs of Locust Walk. You might study
on a bench along the trails of the Bio Pond. Or you might dodge frisbees on College Green. The common denominator of each of these scenarios is
the physical pathways of the campus. These pathways, the buildings that line them, and use of our public and private spaces are very much part of
University life. The condition, appearance, and function of our campus facilities all directly affect every aspect of Penn. And the campus planning
underway reflects that. In particular, virtually every school is planning for its space needs in connection with
Agenda for Excellence, and we will try to meet those needs.
Strategically planning the physical layout of our campus is part of planning for the intellectual life, the safety, and the social experience of students,
faculty and staff at Penn.
Let me give you an example. When I was a student at Penn in the '60s, trolley tracks ran across the core of the campus. It was my predecessor as
president, Gaylord Harnwell, who had the foresight to pave the way for what is now Blanche Levy Park, our College Green. President Harnwell
understood the needs of the campus and he knew the direction he wanted the campus to take. Certainly his decision was not made in isolation; and neither
are the decisions in the campus master plan I will talk about today. Like all good strategic planning, the development of the campus master plan is not
a wish list or a first-aid kit full of quick fixes. It is a plan that takes into account the current needs of the Penn community. And it is a plan that looks
ahead to the needs of students, faculty and staff that will follow us. It is, truly, a work in progress.
"Obsolete," "temporary," and "disposable" are not words that university planners have in mind when they are designing a campus. Good university
planners think ahead, not just to the next month, or the next year, but to the next generations. Universities are built to last.
When the University of Pennsylvania moved to West Philadelphia in 1872, the campus consisted of just two buildings: College Hall and Logan Hall.
Just two buildings. Those two original structures still stand, even now that our campus has expanded to more than 100 buildings and spans more than
250 acres. There are scores of reasons for such profound growth, and many of them are the reasons we continue to build and renovate. Let me mention
three of them:
- The needs of the population change. Who knew that someday we would be housing some 7000 students? Who even knew, in the 1800s, that we
would ever have 7000 students--let alone 22,000?
- Buildings age. Today, a third of our building stock predates the end of World War II.
- And the way we live has changed. Who knew what bikes and roller blades could do to the flagstone on College Green?
A vibrant campus master plan will ensure that Penn grows and changes with the times, and it aims to ensure that our facilities meet the needs of the
Penn community today--and tomorrow. Let me show you what's in store.
-- President Judith Rodin at University Council November 13, 1996
Principles for Campus Development
[Ed. Note: Penn last published a campus master plan in
Almanac May 17, 1988--a document developed for the University by the GSFA-based Center
for Environmental Design and Planning. Later Dr. Robert Zemsky and the Office of Institutional Planning worked with the renowned firm of Venturi,
Scott Brown to refine the "Principles of Campus Development" that were first articulated in 1992 and discussed informally with Council, Trustees and
other bodies at that time. At Council last week, after delivering the introduction at left, Dr. Rodin summarized an approach to a campus master plan
that is based on these principles and linked to Penn's
Agenda for Excellence and its priorities.]
- The campus of the University of Pennsylvania ought to reflect Penn's standing as Philadelphia's pre-eminent educational institution.
- The Penn Campus ought to provide an academic setting that encourages the easy and continuous mingling of faculty, students and staff.
- The Penn campus ought to visibly link Center City and West Philadelphia, stressing the importance of the Schuylkill River as the University's
- To strengthen that linkage, Penn ought to establish better physical interfaces with its neighbors to the north and west, helping to make areas of
overlap physically secure neighborhoods that are good places for Philadelphians of all backgrounds to live and work.
- For the next decade or more, Penn ought to concentrate its development along its eastern and southern boundaries to secure its links to Center
The Penn campus ought to continue its development as an urban park--a place in, but not always of, the City.
- The campus ought to expand its pedestrian core and pattern of green spaces, particularly to the east and north of Blanche Levy Park.
- The physical development of the campus ought to achieve a more even distribution of activity across the campus. In practical terms, achieving
this goal will require developing new centers of activity in the eastern and southeastern precincts of the campus.
- Penn ought to develop an expanded set of walkways that both reinforce the basic east-west and north-south Philadelphia grid, and reestablish
the diagonal grid that runs parallel to the Schuylkill River and Woodland Avenue. The joining of these two grid systems will help establish the special
character and orientation of the campus.
- Penn ought to substantially reduce vehicular traffic within its precincts, principally by limiting traffic to those vehicles whose destination is the
The Development of the Penn campus ought to reflect the ambitions of its Schools and faculties, providing each with a strong physical center
and overlapping links with its neighbors.
- Each School ought to provide its own land-use plan, taking principal responsibility for planning its own environment.
- School plans ought to provide for the strong campus-wide linkages, through pathways and shared facilities and systems that explicitly join
research with instruction and undergraduate education with graduate and professional education.
- Each School plan ought to reflect the overall goals of the University's land-use plan.
The development of the Penn campus ought to reflect the University's architectural history and traditions.
The development of the campus ought to provide for the preservation of Penn's historic treasures while recognizing that not all old buildings
are architectural treasures.
Penn's buildings ought to maintain the dominant cityscape scale of the current campus, which features buildings of medium height that, in their
placement, relate to the grid systems of the campus as well as the City of Philadelphia.
Strategic Goals, a Guiding Vision
Dr. Rodin emphasized half a dozen strategic goals that are the framework for a master plan:
- A vibrant, attractive and safe campus;
- Control over strategic properties and highest and best use of real estate;
- Facilities that support academic initiatives articulated in
Agenda for Excellence;
- Contemporary, high quality residences;
- Greatly expanded recreational and retail opportunities; and
- Robust economic development to support community revitalization.
In addition, she gave four elements of a "guiding vision" underlying any plan: to extend the success and appeal of Locust Walk to other parts of the
campus; to use the best campus buildings as inspiration for new properties;
to create "new places for people" whether for teaching, work and learning or for recreation and leisure; and to "reinvent
the University City image" that Penn and its neighbors share.
Enhancement and Expansion
Using the markers of North, South, East and West, Dr. Rodin's updated plan calls for
expansion on only two fronts--eastward and southward to the
Schuylkill, where property such as the Civic Center is an opportunity for redevelopment. By contrast, toward the west and north--well-populated with
both residential and institutional neighbors--the plan calls for
enhancement of land use, facilities and amenities, often in community or institutional
- East Campus: The strategy is to expand the campus boundary ideally to the Schuylkill River through strategic acquisitions; develop an appropriate
entrance to campus via Walnut Street ("something more exciting than painting our name on a train track," she quipped); dramatically improve safety
and cleanliness; provide athletic fields and expand recreational facilities; and encourage economic development.
- South Campus: Rationalizing the use and ownership of University buildings within the medical complex, and seeking control over the present Civic
Center property, the University would also seek to build up retail services and amenities needed in a medical complex.
- North Campus: Expanding and upgrading residences was first on Dr. Rodin's list, using the Sheraton Hotel as "swing space" during renovations.
Opportunities were cited for improving amenities, attracting businesses that provide needed services and working with key neighboring institutions
(Drexel, the Science Center and UPHS-Presbyterian Medical Center). A Special Services District for University City was also recommended.
- West Campus: Here the revitalization of 40th Street, between Baltimore and Market, topped the list, with the already-announced relocation of
Public Safety as a key strategic move. Encouraging new economic development on Market Street and providing incentives for faculty, staff and students
to live in neighborhoods just west of campus are among the priorities.
Seen programmatically rather than geographically, the master plan is founded on three key considerations:
Student life (from new or renovated residences to enhanced safety, amenities and recreation);
Academic support; and longer-term Institutional
interests that would guide acquisition and space use. Here Dr. Rodin's talk ranged from proposing lively new ventures (notably a Sansom Common development) to asking provocative questions
on land and space use ("Do the back offices of administraton need to be at the core?").
In discussing academic support, Dr. Rodin answered questions that have been in the air since the Wharton School announced plans to construct
a new $100 million home for the MBA program. Schools and departments in the social sciences quad (Social Work's Caster Building, Graduate
Education, Stiteler Hall and the Solomon Psychology Labs) are being asked to consider "not spending any more money on buildings that perhaps never
should have been built in the first place." Psychology is being asked to determine its physical needs and choice of vicinity in terms of the balance between
its two strong thrusts, cognitive sciences and biologically-based neuroscience.
And, she added, the present Book Store site is for the Wharton School--but upgraded retail amenities should remain on the Walnut Street side of
Other land being studied for reuse are stretches of Walnut Street that have been criticized as creating a "brick canyon" that turns Penn's back on
the public--notably in the 3400 block. Stouffer Triangle, Superblock and the Graduate Towers are also to be looked at anew in this continuing
examination of Penn's future physical development.
- (Ed. Note: Dr. Rodin's presentation at Council contained numerous additional details for which space was inadequate in this issue. We hope to follow
up on some of these plans shortly.)
To the Four Corners
The single graphic (below) presented at Council on Wednesday summed up the approach Dr. Rodin sketched for Penn's campus master planning.
At its simplest:
- East and South: Seek opportunities to
expand the campus to the natural boundary of the Schuylkill River, giving elbow room to the medical complex
toward the South and to campus recreational needs to the East.
- North and West: Not acquisition but
enhancement of presently held property is the hallmark of the current plan, which assumes that aside from
independently improving its own properties the University will work in partnership with neighbors and government to enhance the entire area
economically and in its quality of life.
- The semicircle shown at left, stretching from Drexel University to the College of Pharmacy, is not a boundary but a visual device suggesting the
concentration of population to be served by improvements in the 40th Street area.--Ed.
Volume 43 Number 13
November 19/26, 1996
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