New Design for Penn's Commencement 2001
Above is the architect's rendering of the view
of the new stage design from the upper east stands of Franklin Field, with
the graduates seated on the field in the foreground.
This year, students, faculty and guests at the University of Pennsylvania
will participate in a Commencement that is significantly different from
previous years. The ceremony has been redesigned in form and in orientation
to use the space of Franklin Field for a more engaging event. Most evident
will be a new stage in a new position at the center of the Field, with the
skyline of the University and West Philadelphia as its backdrop.
For the first time, all of the Franklin Field Commencement ceremonies
will be held on the same stage--designed to be re-usable and universal in
its function. The ceremony will focus on the stage, which is large in scale
with a unique fabric umbrella canopy and large screen video monitors. The
procession will move from the campus through the stage and around the Field;
this flow is intended to represent a passage of promise, as the University's
graduates symbolically take their places in the world. The goal of the new
design and production is to add richness to the ceremony, making the day
more meaningful and memorable for everyone.
The project began in Spring 2000 with the intent to reconsider the format
of Commencement for 2001, to better celebrate the excellence of the University.
The Project Team identified four objectives:
1) Optimize the Possibilities of Franklin Field as a Venue
- Franklin Field is a natural setting for University eventsone that
honors the tradition of Penn and its presence in Philadelphia.
- As in previous years, the Commencement Procession will wind along Locust
Walk and Smith Walk to enter Franklin Field from the west side.
- The event is oriented to be seen with the skyline of the University
and West Philadelphia as a backdrop.
- Nearly 20,000 anticipated guests can be seated on the north, south,
and east stands, like an arena, so their energy and enthusiasm will become
part of the event.
- Guest access is improved by gaining entrance at both the north and
south sides of the Field.
2) Realize Long-Term Economies for the University
- The set is designed and oriented so that it can be used both by the
University for Commencement, as well as by the College of Arts and Sciences,
the School of Engineering, and the Wharton School for their individual
ceremonies. This avoids the need for redundant sets, audio/visual production
systems, and chair arrangement as in previous years.
3) Design the Event to be Memorable and Meaningful
- The set represents the University as an institutionthe physical
presence of the landscape and the buildings, as well as the place of ideas
- The set has two components, designed to feature two essential aspects
of the ceremony: celebration and achievement. These are the Scene, which
presents a graphic backdrop to the event, and the Stage, where the efforts
of the University community are recognized.
- There is a dramatic movement of the Commencement Procession through
the portal created by the Scene, and around the Field to the participants'
respective places in the ceremony. This flow is intended to represent a
passage of promise, as the University's graduates symbolically take their
places in the world.
4) Create a Focus for the Ceremony
- Located at the 30 yard line, the set subdivides the space of Franklin
Field into a size more suitable for the scale of the event.
- Two large screen video monitors are integrated into the design of the
set, as are audio and lighting production technologies.
- The Scene is made from standard construction scaffolding, creating
a large scale and flexible structure for graphics and the video monitors.
The two freestanding frames are 65' wide by 25'.
- The stage canopy is a uniquely-shaped fabric umbrella that defines
the participants, but does not enclose them. It is supported by a bundle
of ten radiating frames that are cantilevered over the stage.
The Penn participants on the Team included representatives from the Office
of the President, Office of Facilities Services and Office of the Secretary
of the University. They consulted with the designers, MGA Partners, a Philadelphia-based
architectural firm recognized for innovative projects and awards, most recently
the addition and renovation to the Annenberg School for Communication.
--Leslie Laird Kruhly, Secretary of the University
Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 31, April 24, 2001
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| COUNCIL REPORT: Libraries Committee
2001: School Graduation Ceremonies | TEACHING
AWARDS 2001: SAS; LAW; MED |
TEACHING ARCHIVE | BETWEEN
ISSUES | MAY at PENN