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Transforming Penn--From One End to Another, With Buildings and a New Gateway for the Campus


Skirkanich Hall

Skirkanich Hall

The architects for Penn Engineering's newest building--to be raised on the site of the old Pender Laboratory--the husband-and-wife New York team of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, also attended the festivities. Earlier in the day, they made a presentation to the Penn Engineering Board of Overseers to offer their vision for the building and the campus. Williams and Tsien are the designers of the Neurosciences Institute at La Jolla, California, and New York's American Folk Art Museum for which they won the Arup 2001 World Architecture Award for "best new building in the world."  "Williams and Tsien are known for their detailed attention to all aspects of a building, says Dean Glandt. Their design for Skirkanich Hall meets a number of demanding conditions: provides state-of-the-art laboratory and office space, improves circulation through the Engineering complex, creates a grand entrance to it from 33rd Street, and endows it with a superb "living room" at its center, the Quain Quadrangle."

The Trustees Council of Penn Women (TCPW) funded Penn's newest gateway, complete with landscaping, lighting and the diagonal walkway commemorating 125 Years of Women at Penn. Chair of the 125th Sculpture Committee, TCPW member and Trustee Dr. Deborah Marrow, director of The Getty Grant Program, joins Penn President Judith Rodin (below) at the unveiling of the sculpture which has transformed Hill Field into Hill Square. The sculpture by Jenny Holzer (far right) is comprised of quotation-covered benches along the walkway with its matching granite curbing, containing more quotations by and about women at Penn.

Skirkanich Groundbreaking

Donning hard hats and digging in at the Skirkanich Hall site, (from left to right) were Frank Blanchard, Whitaker Foundation; SEAS Dean Eduardo Glandt; Peter Skirkanich; President Judith Rodin; Geri Skirkanich; James Riepe, Trustee Chair and Dan Hammer, Chair of Bioengineering. The ceremonial groundbreaking for Skirkanich Hall, the future home of bioengineering, took place on October 17. President Rodin, Provost Barchi, and Trustee Chair James Riepe celebrated with Dean Eduardo Glandt and 150 friends of the School at a luncheon in a tent on the west lawn of the Towne Building.  The celebration honored Trustee and Penn Engineering Overseer Peter Skirkanich (W'65) and his wife Geri whose $10 million enabling gift--the largest gift by an individual in Penn Engineering's history (Almanac April 2, 2002)--was supplemented by a major award from the Whitaker Foundation (Almanac July 17, 2001). Peter Skirkanich is founder and president of Fox Asset Management, a New Jersey investment management and counseling firm. The 58,000 square foot research and teaching facility will provide the infrastructure for a major new initiative in bioengineering.


Hill Square


Paving the Way: Hill Square--which had been Hill Field--now features a poplar-lined, curving brick walkway from 34th and Walnut to 33rd and Chestnut streets. At the path's midpoint, a wooden "bridge" crosses a low-lying area containing wetlands plantings. Jenny Holzer, an internationally renowned, New York-based sculptor, known for her text-based projects, selected numerous quotations from Penn's Archives representing sentiments by and about women, spanning 125 years. She collaborated with the project's landscape architect, Olin Partnership of Philadelphia, and the lighting designer, L'Observatoire of New York. This walkway will serve as a "new entrance" near the site of the first women's dorm at Penn, Sergeant Hall which had been on Chestnut Street and Hill College House, which had been built as a women's dormitory. President Rodin said that this project which celebrates the role and impact of women, was a vision of so many people. It is a "conceptual companion" to the Generational Bridge over 38th Street that was dedicated for the actual 125th commemoration (Almanac, November 13, 2001). One of the passages reads: "I also like the African educator's remarks, If you train a man, you educate an individual, if you teach a woman--or, let me add, a girl--you educate a nation," 1964 Marietta Peabody Tree. "I'm afraid the University wouldn't be able to function very well if all the women disappeared," 1987 Marion F. Pond.

The TCPW commissioned the Music Department to compose a score specifically for the dedication. Dr. Anna Weesner, assistant professor of music composition, composed and conducted (below) Posses and Pioneers, scored for women's choir, solo soprano, two percussionists and electric bass. The text of the piece is a collection of fragments from the quotations that are inscribed on the curbs and benches at Hill Square.

Deborah Marrow and Predident Rodin Anna Weesner

Holzer benches

Photos by Jacques-Jean Tiziou


Hamilton Village

Hamilton College House

Hamilton College House

photos by Greg Benson

One of the public spaces that has been upgraded, along with the apartments and suites.

Over the summer, work was completed in Hamilton College House, inside and out, transforming it into a modern, attractive residence with new services and amenities. Over the past two years, the building's exterior has gotten a face-lift: the concrete has been repaired and coated with a sealant, tinted in two subtle colors and the old window system has been entirely replaced with windows organized in a lively pattern of panes of several different shapes and sizes. A new slate-paved porch comes out almost to the edge of Locust Walk, inviting visitors toward a glass-enclosed vestibule and lobby with new stairways and lighting. The lobby (above) has been redesigned, lined with wood, reflective glass and stainless steel, natural gray-green slate flooring, and a working fireplace.


Life Sciences Complex

Life Sciences Bldg.

To promote the continued excellence of the life sciences at Penn and to provide a state-of-the-art physical environment that will stimulate discovery and learning in this rapidly evolving field, the School of Arts and Sciences has embarked on the construction of 217,000 square foot complex to house the biology and psychology departments. The ground was broken earlier this semester.

The new complex, to be located behind the biology department's Leidy Laboratories and near HUP, will create a hub for research and teaching in the life sciences. The project will consist of two phases to provide continuity for teaching and research. Construction of the facility's core  (Phase I), followed by the demolition of two existing buildings and an expansion of the new building (Phase II). The hallmark of the complex will be a modular floor plan, allowing easy reconfiguration for emerging research priorities and interdisciplinary collaboration. Features of the new Life Sciences building include:

  • Flexible research modules that allow easy reconfiguration for emerging research priorities and interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Seminar rooms, conference rooms, and faculty offices overlooking the recently renovated James G. Kaskey Memorial Park
  • Lecture hall with state-of-the art technology
  • Plant growth chambers and greenhouses for plant science research
  • Wet laboratories for biology and genomics research
  • Animal, plant, and fish facilities

      To see more illustrations of the new Life Sciences complex see,



  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 14, November 25, 2003


November 25, 2003
Volume 50 Number 14

Dedicating the Rodebaugh Diabetes Center and the Clayton Kyle Conference Room.

Ivy League Champions setting records: Football and Volleyball teams victorious.

Professor of business and public policy named to the Ehrenkranz Chair.

Rules Governing Final Exams prohibit use of social security number and ID number.

University Council to hold Open Forum on December 3; topics due today.

Changes in Faculty Income Allowance Program take effect on January 1.

The Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Classified Research and a Reply to it.

Transforming Penn--from one end to another, with buildings and a new gateway for the campus.

Research Roundup: Hemoglobin, Breast Cancer, Metabolism, Aging, Protecting Newborns

Proposed changes to PennCard Policy to mandate displaying card all weekend.

Special discount at the UPM Shops starts December 5 with Penn, HUP and CHOP ID.

Penn's Way: deadline for last raffle is Wednesday; Dare to Care before Thanksgiving.

Almanac's annual array of Gifts of Involvement with a Penn flair.

December AT PENN, complete with holiday happenings and ways to help others.