New Vet School building opens

Hill Pavilion

Walk through the main entrance of the sparkling new Vernon and Shirley Hill Pavilion, Penn Vet’s new academic center, and you’ll likely be drawn to a series of brightly colored discs mounted on the walls.

Visually striking, with playful silhouettes of cats, giraffes and other animals in motion, the display also provides some useful information about animals, the history of the school and new books available in the Vet School library. Nearly 750 images change randomly every two minutes.

“There’s nothing like this anywhere,” says Gail Luciani, director of communication for the school.

The same could be said about the whole building, a state-of-the-art, teaching and research space that’s a far cry from the undistinguished cinderblock Rosenthal Building where future veterinarians have studied since the 1960s. Luciani says the goal of Alan M. Kelly, the former dean, who spearheaded the idea of a new building, was to “really make a dynamic environment for the students to learn in.” The 124,000 square foot building increases student and teaching space by 91 percent.
Flush with natural light let in by walls of windows overlooking the intersection of 38th Street and Baltimore Avenue, Hill Pavilion is the first Vet School building on the main campus in 25 years.

In the lobby, red chairs (some still covered with plastic) are grouped around yellow tables that mirror the shape of the discs on the “Living Wall.”

Two auditoriums on the ground floor are lined with orange and gray acoustic panels. Each holds about 150 people, and features compact microphones spaced out along the long tables.

Opposite the second floor staircase is a graphic tribute to Edweard Muybridge, the pioneering photographer who captured humans and animals in motion and who once had his studio on the Penn campus, just across the walkway from Hill Pavilion.

The second floor is the heart of the building, and features the “information commons”—the library, group study rooms and electronic classrooms—and plenty of workspace and comfortable chairs for students. Barbara Cavanaugh, head of the Vet Medicine Library, hopes to encourage students to easily search databases, mingle with each other and use library resources. “We wanted students to be able to do all those things simultaneously.” Students, faculty and clinical residents can come together in a common space to share ideas (made easier by a footbridge that connects Hill Pavilion to the hospital).

The library has increased in size from 5,000 to 7,000 square feet, with more study carrels and rooms and a new book display with eclectic selections on infectious disease, bioterrorism and, on the day we visited, the new Jane Goodall biography. The library now boasts 45 computers, compared to a total of five in the old building. “We were really cramped in the old place,” says Cavanaugh.

The third and fourth floors are dedicated to offices and lab space, and already clusters of students are putting them to good use. Luciani says the Medical School is renting the fourth floor of labs and offices for a period of about five years—a move that makes sense since so many Vet School faculty have joint appointments in Penn Med, and so much research overlaps. “That just goes to the heart of what we do,” says Luciani.

Originally published on January 18, 2007