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Campus With a Plan
the core: College Hall (center), Logan Hall (right) and the Fisher
Fine Arts Library before the rest of Penns 262-acre campus grew
up around them.
that people dont understand
about the landscape and the larger structure of a university is [that]
thats what everyone has in common and thats the one thing everyone shares,
says Laurie Olin, Practice Professor of Landscape Architecture in the
Graduate School of Fine Arts. The landscape is not just a bunch of bushes
and trees; its actually the structure of the public space and the commons
of everyone at the great universitiesand thats where Penn is headed.
are included in a recently produced video and CD-ROM presentation on the
Universitys new Campus Development Plan, approved last winter by the
trustees. (A print version is available at the Almanac Web site,
firm, the Olin Partnership, led the two-year effort to develop the plan,
which involved five separate faculty-staff-student committees examining
various aspects of the issue [All
According to Plan, September/October 1999].
Its not a rigid
plan, says Penn President Judith Rodin CW66, but its a directional
imperative that I think is very well-conceived and really will serve us
Having a long-term
strategy for managing growth is essential in dealing with the ups and
downs of campus development as individual projects hit snags and economic
conditions change. When there is as much construction going on as Penn
has had in the last six years, its inevitable that there will be external
forces that may impact the rate and momentum of that, regardless of how
effective your planning is, she says. Thats why the overall Campus
Development Plan is so important, because it has taken such a broad and
long look at Penn and its future.
The truth is
that once that vision is articulated, it matters but it doesnt really
matter if [a given building] is built in 2004 or 2005 or 2006. What
matters is that youre creating a momentum and creating a sense of progress
toward some final goal. I think the success here has been that we have
articulated that final goal.
In order to assess
the existing conditions, planners first looked at how the campus is organized
and its fabricthe mix of buildings, grounds, streets, and infrastructure
within its 262 acres as well as at Penns context within the city of
Philadelphia. Among the key findings:
campus development should emulate the area between 33rd and 38th Streets
and Walnut and Sprucewhat the plan calls the historic pedestrian core
of the campus, characterized by a high proportion of historically significant
buildings; Penns main promenade, Locust Walk; and the welcoming, well-maintained
open space of Blanche Levy Park.
is unique among research universities in that all of its 12 schools are
located on campus; despite this, the physical and intellectual connections
between them are not all they could be. The campus is compartmentalized,
with graduate and professional precincts at the perimeter, often poorly
linked to the core.
universitys building stock includes many historically significant structureswhich,
however, may not meet current academic needsand also numerous buildings
built in the 1960s-1970s that are reaching the end of their life cycles.
These present a range of maintenance, repair, and appropriate-use issues.
amenities are unevenly distributed, with most retail, dining, and cultural
facilities concentrated on 40th Street and along Walnut and Sansom Streets
and most of the athletic and recreational facilities at the eastern edge
of campus. Developing new recreational space is critical to the health
and well-being of the on-campus population, as well as creating additional
intimate and small-scale open spaces outside
the area of Blanche Levy Park, care for and attention to campus groundsopen
space, paving, fixtures, furnishing, and plantingshas been uneven and
large and varied population, combined with its urban location, give rise
to numerous conflicts between pedestrians, bicyclists, passenger cars,
and service vehicles. Utilities and other infrastructure planning has
done project-by-project, rather than on a more efficient
on the findings, the planners developed six goals and a set of strategies
for each to provide a framework for development decisions over the next
Strengthen connections of campus areas to each other and the historic
pedestrian core, while providing each area with a revitalized open-space
To do this, the
plan calls for extending and enhancing three primary axes through campusLocust
Walk running east-west; Woodland Walk, which cuts across campus along
the old path of Woodland Avenue; and 36th Street, the main north-south
Locust Walk would
be extended west as far as 43rd Street through street improvements andmore
ambitiously eastward across the Schuylkill River and into Center City.
This would be done by relocating the tennis courts at 33rd Street and
creating a new Palestra Green, making a passage between the Palestra and
Hutchinson Gym to reach expanded athletic fields and other new development,
and, finally, constructing a new pedestrian bridge across the river.
Walk would be developed from 39th Street in the southwest to Chestnut
and 33rd Streets in the northeast. Key elements here would be using a
planned new life-sciences building and vet-school addition to create a
more defined entrance to campus from the southwest, building a new dining
facility and open space at Stouffer Commons, and improving the pedestrian
connection and landscape spaces behind the Wistar Institute between 37th
and 36th streets. At 33rd and Chestnut, a proposed new College House would
mark the campus entry at the northeastern corner of campus.
Along 36th Street,
in addition to traffic-calming measures (improved signals, designated
bicycle lanes, and improved crossings), a public passage would be opened
through the Johnson Pavilion to connect to the Nursing Education Building
and the health-sciences precinct.
a coherent identity for the entire campus by extending the quality, character,
and amenities of the historic pedestrian core.
This would be
done by using materials in paving, lighting, seating, plantings, and signs
that are similar to those in the historic core. The plan also calls for
reorganizing service and operations functions to avoid conflicts by consolidating
them, relocating them to the perimeter, or putting them underground where
possible. Finally, campus gateways would be reinforced, in part by using
new development to create better defined and more memorable entrances.
the historic pedestrian core as the center of campus life and learning.
The three primary
campus axes converge at Penns institutional icon, College Hall, and
six of Penns 12 schools are represented in buildings within the core.
The academic buildings are heavily used, but the responsibility for their
care is not clearly defined, complicating maintenance and repair issuesas
does the fact that a high proportion of buildings in the core are historically
significant, demanding the highest commitment of University stewardship
and great sensitivity in the creation of new architecture.
The plan recommends
giving priority to activities that support Penns academic mission and
foster campus life in the core, and relocating other uses to the peripheryciting
the acquisition of the Christian Association building and the conversion
of the former Faculty Club into the Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall as examples
of this strategy.
development at both ends of campus is also envisioned, providing round-the-clock
vitality in the core. This would include new College Houses in Hamilton
Village to the west and Hill Field to the east, along with private housing
developments such as the Left Bank apartments and others proposed to the
Invest in capital renewal and encourage rehabilitation and appropriate
adaptive reuse of buildings and landscape.
Not all of the
Universitys building stock is worth saving. The plans calls for developing
sensitive re-use strategies for those that will be preserved, to identify
interim uses for buildings scheduled to go out of service, and plan for
the obsolescence of less-distinguished structures. In landscape architecture,
the plan calls for ongoing maintenance and care for the historic core,
and the commitment of resources to the development and maintenance of
the landscape fabric, within the core and beyond.
Enhance the vibrant and historically significant residential communities
of University City.
and 43rd Streetsthe transition from campus to neighborhoodthe plan foresees
a two-pronged strategy for dealing with the student ghetto. First, the
development of more on-campus housing options will draw under-graduate
students from existing rental units. This would then open them up for
single-family occupancy, helped along by continued initiatives that encourage
home ownership by faculty and staff.
The plan also
calls for partnerships with private, public, and other institutional enterprises
to develop new cultural, entertainment, and retail options on Walnut and
40th Streets to serve both the neighborhood and campus populations.
Connect Penn to Center City with appropriate urban development.
The stretch of
underdeveloped industrial land from Penns campus to the river creates
a perceived, if not actual, barrier between the University and Center
City. The plan calls for more retail, housing, and commercial development,
especially along Walnut Street, building on the recent conversion of the
former GE building to the Left Bank apartment complex, where Penn has
also relocated its Facilities Services Division and the Penn Childrens
This area is
also seen as a prime spot for the growth of Penns academic facilities,
including research and development and in support of emerging enterprises,
such as in health-related and high-tech fields. And expanded athletic
facilities would be constructed as well, to include new playing fields,
court-sports facilities, an indoor pool, and fieldhouse.
The idea of
reanimating West Philadelphia and restoring it as a vibrant heterogeneous
neighborhood is inconsistent with moving Penn academic buildings and large
structures further into the neighborhood, says Rodin. When we examined
where we could go and what the opportunities were for Penns own expansion,
it really was with an eye to the east and the south [on the old Civic
about that because it does provide the room that we think is necessary
for our future growth. Then we feel we have the best of both worlds. We
have a link over bridges to downtown and a continuation of University
City to Center City, while at the same time we have a link to West Philadelphia,
which is something we also value and want to continue to promote and solidify.
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Gazette Last modified 8/24/01