When the visionaries at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania, established in 1740, think loftily about the future of the institution, they speak loftily. “It’s about taking the university from excellence to eminence,” says Anne Papageorge, the school’s vice president of facilities and real estate services.
This idea doesn’t originate from Papageorge, though; it actually belongs to Dr. Amy Gutmann, the president of the Ivy League university. When she arrived at the world-class institution in 2004, she laid out a plan called the Penn Compact in her inaugural address. Reupped as the Penn Compact 2020 in 2013, the program is essentially a wholesale effort to improve access to the school, encourage more cross-disciplinary work between its departments, and better connect it to more teaching and research, both locally and globally.
The university is tackling the Penn Compact from two angles: one, the Making History fundraising campaign, focuses on scholarships, endowed chairs, and capital for the school. The other, the Penn Connects plan, involves physical transformation of the campus and its facilities. The university recruited Papageorge from the New York City government, and a large portion of her responsibilities relate to the implementation of the Penn Connects plan.
Papageorge arrived in the fall of 2006, at the beginning of the campus plan’s first phase. She followed that phase through to completion, then immediately spearheaded an update to create Penn Connects 2.0, a renewed vision that the university is now in the midst of completing.
Papageorge and her executive team are responsible for planning, design and construction, facilities operations, maintenance and utilities, and real estate operations and development. She manages a staff of approximately 950 people, including 175 managers, 525 housekeeping staff, and 250 tradespeople, and she also leads the university’s Environmental-Sustainability Advisory Committee. She has incorporated the school’s sustainability goals into all its capital projects, with a mandate of at least LEED Silver for all major projects, and her team has also set goals for energy conservation, waste minimization, and education, incorporating sustainability into students’ course work.
“Our department is the glue that ensures all the pieces work together,” Papageorge says. This means taking responsibility even for smaller concerns such as sidewalks, curb cuts, landscaping, and the way two building renovations might interface with each other—key differentiators for the 12 centrally located urban schools and centers.
Singh Center for Nanotechnology
The largest completed project to date, this building was also the first designed with cross-disciplinary opportunities in mind: the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Arts and Sciences will share the space.
The project was done in phases. The university moved researchers into the new building then demolished their old building to create a courtyard in its place, situated in front of the new structure. The architects at Weiss/Manfredi had to design both for high-end aesthetics and for the requirements of high-tech labs, including expensive equipment and clean rooms. Siting the building was also difficult because it needed a location with no vibration. Even the slightest movements would impact research.
The building’s most distinguishing feature is a large cantilever, at the edge of Walnut Street, that offers a tremendous view of the campus. Inside, a saffron-colored glass wall acts as both a decorative element and a light filter for the facility’s clean rooms, and the clear exterior glass works with the interior glass to make the building glow at night.
Neural Behavioral Sciences
Cost: $69 million (projected)
Size: 83,000 sq. ft.
Completion: Spring 2016 (projected)
Architect: SmithGroup JJR
This is another cross-disciplinary project that will house two departments within the School of Arts and Sciences: Psychology and Biology. Slated for occupancy in spring 2016, the space will comprise 77,000 square feet of new construction, 5,000 square feet of renovated adjacent space, and below-
grade connections to three Arts and
The Neural Behavioral Sciences building will have teaching labs, dry labs, faculty offices, an auditorium lecture hall, and common spaces. With the site’s utility work and the demolition of two existing buildings already done, the project is well under way.
Like the Singh Center, this building will also boast a cantilever, but its defining feature will be a scrim. The sunshade-like apparatus will not only help regulate temperature; its molecular patterns will reflect the building’s purpose.
Edward W. Kane Park
Once, a triangular parking lot stood at the intersection of 33rd, 34th, and Spruce Streets. The location is essentially the
gateway to the University of Pennsylvania from the South Street Bridge, though, so the school created a more welcoming entry there known as Kane Park.
After relocating some of the triangle’s popular food trucks to a nearby fresh-air food plaza, the university was able to design a green space for both the community and health-system visitors to enjoy. The park also acts as a link to other open spaces on campus, part of a continuous spine of pedestrian walkways that runs from 40th Street to the 24-acre Penn Park.
New College House at Hill Field
Construction of this residential space began in December 2013, and when it’s completed, it will be the first new structure designed specifically as a college house at the university. It will hold living and learning spaces for 350 students and work spaces for faculty and graduate advisors. Residents will be able to choose between three-, four-, five-, and six-bedroom suites, and they will have access to a dining facility, a seminar room, and a media center.
The state-of-the-art, contemporary building will also boast a LEED Silver rating, green roofs, and a generous lifted lawn, which will be open to the general public. An additional private courtyard will be available to residents, and it will be flanked by activity spaces for the student community.
Originally built in 1928, the ARCH was purchased by the university in 1999. Listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and located in the heart of the campus, the building was a tired gem, so SaylorGregg Architects conceived a complete restoration of both the building’s envelope and its interior spaces. Because of the structure’s age, upgrading its infrastructure—plumbing, HVAC, electrical systems, and fire protection—proved especially challenging, and in order to preserve its character, specialists were chosen to accurately restore its period millwork and plaster through a meticulous process.
The building now includes a common lounge and auditorium, with track seating, that can easily be set up for classroom lectures or emptied out for banquets or performances. It is home to the student groups La Casa Latina; Makuu: The Black Cultural Center; and the Pan-Asian American Community House. The other floors hold a Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships and a new café, making the building a hub of student activity.
One of the key features of the University of Pennsylvania is the amount of developed open space it has for an urban campus. And, in the heart of the athletic precinct rests Shoemaker Green, a new, sustainable public commons.
It has underground storage tanks for storm-water collection and a bio garden with native plant materials, and it received a two-star rating as a pilot project for the Sustainable Sites Initiative, which is the equivalent of a LEED rating for landscaping.
One of the biggest challenges of this project was the regulatory approval process related to storm-water retention. Also, due to the project’s location, construction had to be conducted with care to accommodate the crowds coming out of nearby Franklin Field and the Palestra, the school’s football stadium and basketball arena, respectively. But, all games proceeded as scheduled.