School of Architecture for Penn Design

Project Description

Critic

Peter de Bretteville

Penn’s reinvigorated School of Design aims to attract international recognition, yet also responds to local site forces. On the skyline, the building is an iconic, pure volume that marks the entry to old campus. At ground level, the building is carved away to create sheltered spaces for public interaction. The prominent corner site demands a building perceived in the round, and each face becomes a front: to the street on two sides; to the ornate and historic Fisher Library to the south; and to the leafy inner quad to the west.
Internally, double-height studio floors alternate in section with compressed levels for classrooms, offices, and casual gathering, referencing the interaction of served and service spaces in Kahn’s Richardson Labs across campus. Circulation embedded in the facade—visible as diagonal voids from the outside—links review spaces, activating the perimeter with informal encounters. Courtyards and light wells cut down into the exterior plaza provide glimpses into fabrication spaces below, showcasing designs-in-progress to the public and passersby.