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BRICKS AND MORTAR

Perelman Quadrangle:
Back to the Future

 

“We are very excited by this project because it unites past and present,” said Dr. Judith Rodin CW’66, president of the University. She was speaking at the September grand opening of the Perelman Quadrangle, a project that was many years in planning and quite a few semesters in execution—but, in her words, “incredibly worth the wait.”
    Designed by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Perelman Quadrangle unites Irvine Auditorium with College, Houston, Logan and Williams Halls, all of which have undergone extensive renovations. It is named after Ronald O. Perelman W’64 WG’66, who donated $20 million to the overall project.
    The occasion was marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially unveiling Wynn Commons, the Perelman Quadrangle’s centerpiece, which provides a new landscaped plaza area behind Houston Hall where students can congregate. The construction of Wynn Commons was made possible mainly through the $7.5 million gift of Stephen Wynn C’63.
    Rodin noted Wynn’s role, as former chair of Mirage Resorts, in transforming Las Vegas, and predicted that Wynn Commons would also have a role in helping to transform Penn and Philadelphia.
    “One of the great things about Wynn Commons is the adaptability for different uses,” she said. “It will be an outdoor hub for concerts, ceremonies, debates, celebrations and spontaneous fun.”
    Other speakers repeatedly emphasized the role of this new geographical center for student life on campus, where Wynn Commons would be “town square” to the Perelman Quadrangle’s “main street.” As Provost Robert Barchi Gr’72 M’72 GM’73 put it: “In the years to come, the words that will be on everybody’s lips will be ‘Meet me at Wynn Commons.’”
    Some observers, however, have expressed disappointment in features such as the heroic-sized shield of the University that stands at the Irvine Auditorium end of the Commons, and the large permanent signs detailing University “firsts.” (See “Letters,” on page 6.)
    In Barchi’s opinion, the Commons is “really an extraordinary enhancement for a campus that’s already known as one of the urban wonders in academic education.” And, he added, “It was truly gratifying to look out here and see for the first time students occupying these marble stairs, sitting down for a little sun, a little conversation, a little quiet time.”
    The official opening of Perelman Quadrangle coincided with the annual “No Place Like Penn” weekend, an early-semester series of campus festivities; this year, for the first time, all events were held in the new facilities. Students were treated to a special Penn version of the ABC late-night television program Politically Incorrect at Irvine Auditorium as well as a Saturday-night concert by the band Guster on Wynn Commons. And an exhibition titled “Houston Hall—See the History,” at the Bob and Penny Fox Student Art Gallery in Logan Hall, offered images from the days when the nation’s oldest student union was an upper-class men’s club, complete with smoking rooms and even a swimming pool.
    Wynn recalled his own days as a Penn undergraduate when Houston Hall and its terrace served as the center of University activity. “Now that I’m back again,” he said, “I see that all the kids here now, and the ones that will be coming, are going to have a better place than ever before.”

—Kevin Lee C’01

 


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Copyright 2000 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 10/31/00





From the top: Guster rocks; Steve Wynn and President Rodin cut the ribbon; shadows on the Penn shield; Guster rocks again.
Photos by Stuart Watson