On the blustery afternoon of Friday, Nov. 8, under a tent set up on Hill Field, the Penn community gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new college house—what President Amy Gutmann called a “living, learning community.”
The New College House on Hill Field is Penn’s first-ever residential building specifically designed as a college house, the University’s residential system that brings together undergraduates, faculty, staff, and graduate students to form shared communities within the larger campus context.
Gutmann was joined at the celebration by Penn Trustee Chair David L. Cohen and major donors to the project, including the Lauder Foundation represented by Penn Emeritus Trustee Leonard Lauder W’54, Penn Term Trustee William Lauder W’83, and Gary Lauder C’84, W’84 and his wife, Laura Lauder, and Emeritus Trustee Stephen Heyman W’59 and his wife, Barbara Heyman.
“Today we mark an important new beginning for Penn,” Cohen said. “The face of Penn is changing again, right here, with the groundbreaking for this new college house.”
The celebration included free food and entertainment by the student performing arts groups Penn Masala, Penn DuRe, and Penn Sirens. Attendees were treated to a lively drumline, a parade of flags, and a T-shirt giveaway.
“I've been waiting for this day for almost 10 years,” Gutmann said. “What the Quad did more than a century ago, this New College House will do for Penn again.”
Gutmann added the new college house will shape the student experience for generations. She also introduced Stephen Heyman and William Lauder, who each spoke on behalf of their families about the New College House’s role in shaping the larger Penn community.
“The beauty of this house will be second to none,” Gutmann said. “It will beautify our college landscape.”
Penn’s College House system, established 15 years ago, currently has 11 college house residences that form the dynamic shared communities within the larger Penn community. The houses serve as microcosms of the University's intellectual variety and strengths and provide learning opportunities outside of the conventional classroom.
The 198,000-square-foot building will be located on Hill Field, a site bounded by 33rd, 34th, Walnut and Chestnut streets. It will house approximately 350 undergraduate students, in three-, four-, five- and six- bedroom suites and contain a new dining venue, seminar rooms, a media center and a large multipurpose space for social and cultural activities. A central courtyard will serve the population of the building and can accommodate a variety of events, including small concerts, barbecues and other leisure activities.
Construction will begin in 2014 and is slated for completion by 2016.
Currently, 52 percent of Penn’s undergraduates reside within the College House system. This includes 99 percent of the first-year class (2,451 students) and 50 percent (1,263 students) of the second-year class. Third- and fourth-year students comprise the remaining 30 percent of College House residents with equal representation from both classes (approximately 700 per class).
The Philadelphia-based design firm of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson has been selected to design the project. BCJ is an internationally known firm that has received more than 460 regional, national and international awards for design. In addition to the Liberty Bell Center on Independence Mall and Apple stores around the world, the firm also designed the Penn Dental’s Schattner Center.