Designed to enrich the academic life of students and embody the vibrancy of its urban setting, the 198,000-square-foot New College House brings together undergraduates, graduates, faculty and staff in a shared community. As the University of Pennsylvania’s first purpose-built college house, the building is poised to enliven the campus experience for the 21st century and beyond.
The New College House frames a critical gateway to Penn’s urban campus, preserving vital green space and welcoming visitors via a public ‘lifted lawn.’ Bohlin Cywinski Jackson was challenged to engage a vibrant college community into the campus and the city on all four sides of the building, while also securing the College House by a single point of entry.
The design team responded with a unique configuration around two iconic outdoor spaces to accomplish these goals: a flourishing, active courtyard secured for the exclusive use of the College House, and the lifted lawn, open to residents as well as the greater community. These two spaces look onto one another and use a grade separation to affirm required security.
The garden courtyard is encircled on three sides by lively social spaces. The fourth side is home to the dining café and pavilion; its green roof acts as the crown of the sloping lawn and marks a public passageway that slices through the building, offering glimpses into the private courtyard below. The building’s façade, which consists of brick and limestone punctuated by vertical glass towers, is designed to seamlessly integrate into Penn’s rich architectural legacy.
A staggered brick pattern at the windows reflects the building’s internal organization as a home, not an institution, and gives residents a sense of where they live in the scope of the block-long College House. Windows are collected into double height groupings of four, each assembled into a ‘neighborhood face,’ and allow for a rich and dynamic display of light and shadow within.
In deliberate contrast, the glass towers containing neighborhood common areas punctuate the brick residential bays and expresses social purpose of the building. An array of interconnected spaces with distinct spatial qualities and characteristics foster diverse learning and social engagement inside the seven-story building, while circulation and lounge areas draw views of Penn’s surrounding campus community and Center City Philadelphia.
Suite-style residences accommodate 350 students, along with living spaces for faculty, graduate students, deans, and advisors. The suites are collected around sunny day-lit common room towers, which act like beacons of community in the landscape. The new building conserves energy through high-efficiency lighting and abundant access to natural light, while its green roofs, lawns, and gardens help retain 95 percent of storm water.
Inside, building materials were chosen for their sustainable qualities, including 120 dining chairs locally fabricated in Pennsylvania and made from 20,000 recycled soda bottles. During construction, a waste-recycling plan diverted nearly all construction and demolition waste from landfills.