Why is Claire M. Fagin Hall so confusing?

Dear Benny:
For decades, visitors to Claire M. Fagin Hall at the School of Nursing have had a difficult time finding their way around the building. Its interior seems to have been constructed like a maze. Recent renovations have helped, but why is that building so confusing?
—Need a GPS

Dear GPS:
The School of Nursing building, known today as Claire M. Fagin Hall, opened in 1973 as the home of three separate and distinct nursing education programs. It was called the Tri-Institutional Nurses Education Building, and the idea was that it would house not only Penn’s nursing program, but also the nursing education program for Philadelphia General Hospital and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Pediatric Affiliation Program. The interior was divided into three different spaces, giving each program its own realm, with only a few common spaces.

As a result, the four-story building had a convoluted layout with an “upper” and “lower” second floor, disjointed walls and elevators with front and rear doors leading to very different areas. Some have said there wasn’t even a front door.

“Well, there was a front door, but you had to know where it was,” says Nursing Professor Emerita Joan E. Lynaugh. “You came into an anteroom where a receptionist sat and she, the poor thing, had to explain how to get where you wanted to go.”

In the late 1970s, the entire building became the home of Penn Nursing. In 2006, the University launched a multi-phase renovation to integrate the interior of the building and make it easier to navigate. The first phase, completed in 2007, refurbished the ground floor, creating a unifying entryway and reception area. The second phase, completed in 2008, modified the third and fourth floors. The third and fourth phases improved classrooms and labs. And a final phase, expected to be completed in 2012, calls for renovation of the first-floor simulation labs, restrooms and corridors.

Originally published on June 9, 2011