Law School’s big makeover begins

law school

Penn Law

Work is underway on a building project that will transform Penn’s Law School, both inside and out.

This summer, crews will demolish Pepper Hall on Sansom Street—one of the Law School’s four adjoining buildings—and erect in its place a new building with a rooftop garden, state-of-the-art courtroom, 350-seat auditorium and dramatic new glass entrance.

“It’s primarily a brick building with a stone trim,” says University Architect David Hollenberg of the new structure. “It’s clearly a modern design, but respectful of what’s around it.”

Designed by architects at Boston’s Kennedy & Violich, the new building will have three stories on its eastern edge, which touches Silverman Hall, and two stories with a roof deck on its western end. It will also be LEED certified—making it one of the first law schools in the country to be designated to meet the environmentally sound building standard. The 18-month project is expected to be complete in January of 2012.

“The business owners on Sansom Street are being very patient and accommodating, and we’re trying to respect that,” says Mariette Buchman, director of design and construction at Facilities and Real Estate Services. “We are trying to do this on a tight schedule. [The Law School] doesn’t want to inconvenience their students any longer than possible.”

The approximately $30 million project also includes a renovation of the student lounge, affectionately known around the Law School as The Goat. The lounge’s facelift will be finished in time for a January 2011 opening, says Jo-Ann Verrier, vice dean for administrative services at the Law School.

“One of the things that we are really proud about is that our physical plant is so intimate in a way. Everyone is crossing paths with each other day in and day out,” says Verrier. “That sense of collaboration and collegiality enables scholars to do their best work. ... We want to continue to afford people these crossroads and opportunities for exchange.”

To that end, the new building project will feature a second-floor bridge connecting the new building with Silverman Hall, the Law School’s centerpiece structure.

“The new Penn Law building completes a 10-year transformation of our campus,” says Penn Law Dean Michael Fitts. Past renovations in the Law School’s three other buildings include upgrades to classrooms and the library, new faculty offices and collaborative study rooms and meeting spaces. “It will be the perfect environment in which to study law and engage the mind.”

The Law School will be setting up a blog in the coming weeks so people can follow the progression of the project. Go to to see if the blog is up and running.

Originally published on June 10, 2010