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Titus Hewryk, University architect, leans over a campus map that covers most of a table in a conference room in the Office of Facilities Services and points to spot after spot where construction is just completed, now under way or slated to commence. The map is marked with pen and pencil scratches and is out of date, but what will be where–eventually–is clear in his mind. In a gruff, lightly accented voice, his glasses perched low on his nose, he reels off a list of a dozen or so projects. When the tape ends, he stops obligingly and strokes his beard. "That is in a nutshell what is happening," he says–and then remembers a few more.

Hewryk, who has worked at Penn for 25 years, has been around almost long enough to remember the University’s last building binge of similar scale–the period in the 1950s through the early 1970s that began roughly with the closing to traffic of Woodland Avenue, which had cut diagonally through campus, and concluded with the creation of Superblock. Those decades shaped much of Penn’s present-day campus, but the University’s use of urban-renewal legislation to appropriate land in the surrounding neighborhoods poisoned community relations for a long time after, with still-lingering effects and, architecturally speaking, the results were, well, mixed. Legacies of the era include such highly regarded structures as the Richards Medical Research Laboratories (1962), designed by Louis I. Kahn Ar’24 Hon’71, and Eero Saarinen’s Hill House (1960), but it also gave Penn many others that are viewed as undistinguished or are actively disliked –of which the three high-rise dormitories constructed in the aforementioned Superblock may rank first and foremost. (For more on the ups and downs of Penn’s architectural history, see the story on page 38.)
   
This time around, the University has gone to considerable effort to secure community buy-in for its building plans, especially with commercial projects like Sansom Common and along the 40th Street corridor, where campus and community intersect. Through the University City District, Penn has supported efforts to improve lighting, street-cleaning and other services. And the University has stepped up efforts to encourage faculty and staff to make homes in West Philadelphia through expanded mortgage assistance and other incentives and a planned K-8 public school in West Philadelphia.

    The current wave is also as much about re-building as it is about new construction. Among the most significant projects under way is the Perelman Quadrangle, which knits together five existing structures–Houston Hall, Irvine Auditorium, College Hall, Logan Hall and Williams Hall–to create an undergraduate student center organized around a new central plaza. And a $300 million, 10-year Dining and Housing Renewal Program announced last fall includes a $75 million renovation of the Quad dormitories as well as renovation work and major new construction in the former Superblock area, which has been renamed Hamilton Village. As the name implies, this project too is seen as a type of restoration–an effort to recapture some of the small-scale sense of community missing in a comparatively bleak sector of campus. In August, two architectural firms were selected to design the first phase of this project. (The overall program also includes renovations to the Hill House dining area, completed this summer; demolition of Stouffer Triangle and construction of a new dining facility on the site; expansion of the Class of 1920 Commons; and assorted smaller renovation efforts.)
   
Other new construction, like the Wharton School’s Huntsman Hall, being built on the former Penn Bookstore site at 38th Street, involve reuse of University land, rather than displacing current neighborhood residents. Surface parking lots–like the one at 34th and Chestnut, where the University would like to build a mixed-use complex, or at 40th and Locust, where the Schattner Center, the Dental School’s new building, is going up–are other favored sites for development. The need to make the best use of limited space is one of the reasons cited for an effort begun last spring to craft a new campus development plan (see box on page 28).
   
Here is a tour of the campus to come, running roughly east to west.

 

 

 

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Copyright 1999 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 8/24/99