With its modern, minimalist style, the new Perry World House boasts a physical openness that mirrors its agenda: to be a place for candid discussion.
“Anywhere in the building you can see through and across it,” says Penn Law Professor William Burke-White, the inaugural director of the 17,400-square-foot research center. “It joins that architectural element to the programmatic element; it’s meant to be a space where visitors from around the globe should feel free to speak openly with one another.”
The idea of what is now Perry World House began about five years ago, and a 2013 gift from University Trustee Richard C. Perry and his wife Lisa helped make it possible. The 19th-century workers’ cottage on Locust Walk has been transformed into a state-of-the-art hub for advancing interdisciplinary, policy-related approaches to the world’s most pressing global issues.
Although the center has hosted a few events since construction concluded in the summer, such as a national security panel during the Democratic National Convention, Perry World House is celebrating its grand opening this week, offering numerous activities for the Penn community to tour the building, as well as get a taste of what it has to offer.
The opening of Perry World House also kicks off Penn Global Week, which is featuring study abroad information sessions for students, faculty forums, film screenings, and an International Peace Day festival and market. On Friday, Sept. 23, President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj will give a distinguished lecture.
“It’s now possible to bring world leaders to campus in a new way,” says Amy Gadsden, executive director for Penn Global. “Perry World House offers a tremendous platform for us to bring everyone together to showcase how global Penn is and to energize people around global engagement.”
Penn Provost Vincent Price calls the opening of Perry World House “a highly significant moment in Penn’s history.
“It will greatly advance our missions to serve society and integrate knowledge by promoting constructive dialogue among our diverse schools and disciplines,” Price says. “It will marry research and practice, and bring our expertise to bear on the most complex and urgent global challenges.”
The goal for Perry World House’s first year, Burke-White says, is to roll out programs and events centered around two global themes including “Global Shifts: Urbanization, Migration, and Demography” and “The Future of the Global Order: Power, Technology, and Governance.” Burke-White’s aim is to bring major policymakers to campus, not just for a quick visit or talk, “but to really engage with the University’s faculty, staff, and students,” he says.
Also new will be 25 undergraduate fellows, who will become immersed in the policy research happening at the center.
Burke-White notes that the space is open to everyone on campus, even those simply looking for a meeting place.
“We’re committed to being open for the entire Penn community,” he says. “We give priority to programs with global impact, but the space is there for everyone.”