Sketches of a $120 Million Project
Last week the Wharton School unveiled its plans for the $120 million, 300,000 square-foot, academic center on the wraparound site on 38th Street formerly occupied by the Penn Bookstore and University Plaza stores. The plans will go to the Trustees for final review and approval in the next two months. The schedule then calls for groundbreaking following Commencement 1999, and the opening of the center in 2002 as "the world's most advanced facility for management education," Wharton leaders said.
The building is a result of four years of extensive planning across the University community including ongoing consultation with Wharton faculty, students, alumni boards and University Trustees. Unusually in higher education capital activity, the center is being funded entirely by major gifts and pledges from the School's alumni. To date, more than $100 million has been raised. "In my experience to date in higher education, I am not aware of any other project that has been so successful in securing such a large percentage of the total costs so quickly," said John Glier, principal of Grenzenbach & Glier, a leading consulting firm for higher education. "To raise funding for a capital project entirely through philanthropy is an extraordinary accomplishment."
"I am enthusiastic about these plans, and I believe this will be an outstanding academic building," said President Judith Rodin. "The new Wharton building will support the School's priorities as well as those of Penn's Agenda for Excellence. It is one in a series of important academic capital projects across campus, including the Vagelos Laboratories, the biomedical research buildings for the School of Medicine, the Gateway Building for the School of Dental Medicine, the Annenberg Public Policy Center, Silverman Hall for the Law School, and other new academic facilities in the planning stages. We're delighted to continue Penn's strong forward momentum with this tremendous new addition to further our academic mission."
The state-of-the art facility will serve as a multi-functional academic center for both the undergraduate and MBA programs, for faculty and academic departments, and for conferences and cocurricular activities- serving approximately 4,700 undergraduate and MBA students, 250 faculty members and hundreds of senior executives and alumni each year. While both the undergraduate and MBA programs will have their own distinctive area, the building will support the School's curricular innovations with a flexible mix of classrooms, study rooms, labs, and lounges.
The building will feature 57 group study rooms offering a wide array of technologies such as multimedia and audio/video conferencing capabilities for distance learning, video production and editing, connectivity between group workstations and Internet access. The academic center will complement Wharton's curriculum, which features significant interactive and discussion- based learning, including teamwork on class projects, cases, simulations, leadership and interpersonal exercises, and field application projects.
"The building's design will set a new standard for innovative teaching and instruction," said Wharton's Dean Thomas P. Gerrity. "It will incorporate the most advanced networking and communications technologies to create an entirely new global learning environment and to support Wharton's recognized leadership in international perspectives in its programs."
The building will also accommodate the growing number of co-curricular activities that enrich learning and promote the School's partnership among students, faculty and staff. For example, office space will be dedicated to students working on student-organized conferences and workshops, club activities and other co-curricular initiatives. A 300-seat auditorium will allow groups to gather for School-sponsored events. Study and social lounges, two cafes and student services will fill the role of a community activity center.
A 4,000 square-foot Forum will be the building's largest single space-the setting for events such as the freshmen Dean's meeting, family weekends, graduation celebrations and award ceremonies. Faculty will be able to share their latest research findings in a colloquium setting that provides a venue for the numerous conferences and seminars conducted by Wharton's 18 research centers and 11 academic departments.
Using a range of materials including red brick and stone, the academic center is designed to integrate with the look of the campus and enhance the flow of students and campus activities on both Locust Walk and Walnut Street.
"The entrance and cafe for undergraduate students on Locust Walk blends nicely into the existing character of the Walk and encourages student interaction and activity," said Scott Douglass, Wharton's associate dean for finance and administration. "And on Walnut Street, the curvature of the tower opens the building out toward Walnut Street and Sansom Common, and serves as an inviting point of entry."
As the new center comes on line, Wharton will retain Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall's five tiered lecture halls but will convert all "flat floor" spaces for academic offices and research facilities, and Vance Hall will become an administrative building.
Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 20, February 9, 1999