Hamilton Village: New and Renewed College Houses
by David B. Brownlee
for more on this picture)
With the current exhibition in Van Pelt-Dietrich Library of all
six models submitted in the Hamilton Village Design Competition, we have
now launched the next phase of the College House renewal project. At a public
forum held on October 28th, and in various print media around campus, we
announced that Patkau Architects and Kieran, Timberlake & Harris were
commissioned by the University to go forward with feasibility studies based
on these designs.
The consultative committees, comprised of faculty, staff and students
from the College Houses of Hamilton Village, are now working closely with
the chief architects from these two firms, and all members of the University
community are warmly invited to join in the discussion of this exciting
project. A review of this project, and how the competition was conducted,
The six competing firms were asked to consider the entire "superblock"
of Hamilton Village, stretching from 38th to 40th Streets and from Spruce
to Walnut. Specifically, they were asked to plan the renovation of existing
College Houses, both to meet deferred maintenance needs and make them serve
as better College Houses, and to design new accommodations for 1000 students.
Other important goals included a preference for small and medium scale buildings,
the creation of more intimate outdoor spaces, redesigned service and other
vehicular circulation, and reduction of the wind-accelerating effects of
the high-rises. An open, active boundary between the campus and the neighborhood
was specified, with increased retail space on 40th Street. The location
of the Walnut West Library at the corner of 40th and Walnut was to be respected,
noting that the library would ultimately determine whether to remain in
its current structure or build a new one.
Lessons from the Competition
The six firms responded with many provocative ideas, and from them, we
learned very valuable lessons. The best of these ideas will be incorporated
in the planning process. They include:
- Use of non-traditional geometry. Several of the designers shaped their
buildings and walkways with curves, circles, and diagonals. These attractive
features echo some of our favorite landmarks on campus: the curved apse
of Fisher Fine Arts Library and the dynamic line of Woodland Walk that
cuts across Blanche Levy Park.
- A piazza on Locust Walk between 39th and 40th Streets. Several designs
eliminated the windy plaza next to Harnwell College House and added a "town
square" in front of St. Mary's, the handsome Gothic Revival church
in Hamilton Village, surrounding it with entrances to three or more College
Houses. This piazza invigorates the connection between the campus and city.
- Connect with the Sundance Theater, Walnut West Library, and freshgrocer.com,
the new supermarket. This concentration of new activity along 40th and
Walnut streets invites a diagonal walkway into campus near the corner.
- Activate Locust Walk. Place the active areas of the College Houses
(such as computer labs and lounges), as well as new hubs on Locust Walk.
- Preserve openness to the city. No dividing walls, nor walls of closed
buildings should face the surrounding neighborhoods. Active retail space
should prevail on both sides of 40th Street. Gateways and openings should
be strongly welcoming, and greenery should be visible from the street.
- Make the high-rises more manageable. Several firms suggested we create
two smaller College Houses within the body of each 28-story building. This
would require separate lobbies and elevator systems for each House. Attaching
two- or three-story additions ("skirts") to the bases of the
high-rises would reduce their scale at ground level, provide needed public
space, and ameliorate the wind-tunnel effect.
- The importance of courtyards. Courtyards help to create a strong identity
for the College Houses and their residents. This arrangement also allows
the installation of a simple one-point security system for each house.
- Variety in building height. By generally limiting the new College Houses
to four or five stories, and raising some sections to 8-12 stories (like
the new buildings on adjacent sites, such as Huntsman Hall, the new parking
garage on 40th, and the Gateway Building of the School of Dental Medicine)
we can mitigate the unsettling imbalance between very low buildings and
very tall ones and provide a more interesting, varied skyline. This also
preserves green space.
Dr. Brownlee is Professor of History of Art, the
Director of College Houses and Academic Service and Faculty Master of Harnwell
Patkau Architects is now testing the feasibility of providing 700 College
House accommodations in new low and mid-rise buildings in the northwest
quadrant of Hamilton Village. This assignment is based on their competition
submission, which created two College Houses in this area, each organized
around a secure, green courtyard, with multiple doorways into living areas,
and a pleasant fountain. Internally, Patkau's design featured extremely
successful layouts for student suites, each with a kitchen, bathroom, and
a single bedroom for each resident. The suites were gathered into social
clusters, centered on fireplace-equipped lounges. They have also been asked
to make provision in the westernmost House for a proposed visual arts hub
on Locust Walk.
Kieran, Timberlake & Harris is further developing its competition
proposal to divide Hamilton College House into two College Houses, each
with about 400 residents and each with its own entrance lobby, elevators,
and public spaces. Many of the required College House amenities (libraries,
computer labs, house offices, lounges, exercise rooms, music practice rooms,
etc.) will be provided in a skirt at the base of the tower. They are also
studying the residential floors to see if they can be re-configured with
a lounge on each floor and student suites with bathrooms, kitchens, living
rooms, and a private bedroom for each resident.
These models, along with those from the other four architectural firms,
will remain on display at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library through Monday,
Questions, comments and suggestions are welcome; send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 11, November 9, 1999
PAGE | CONTENTS
On Financial Aid | COUNCIL
MEMBERSHIP & COMMITTEES | TALK
ABOUT TEACHING ARCHIVE | BETWEEN
ISSUES | NOVEMBER at PENN