University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Management and Technology offers a dual degree in engineering and business to fewer than 200 undergraduate students. This 8,500-square-foot building serves as their social and intellectual hub on campus.
Global Design & Architecture Design Awards 2019
Second Award | Category: Institutional (Built)
Studio: Studio Joseph
Architect: Wendy Evans Joseph
Country: United States
Originally constructed as a residence in the late 1800s, the building served various uses and underwent multiple renovations in differing architectural styles. Among these interventions are the 1920s Academic Gothic façade replacing in part a French mansard in the front and a Postmodern, stucco façade that combined the building with its neighbor at the rear. An extremely tight site sandwiched between two Historic Landmark buildings made construction difficult, forcing surgical tactics as part of a careful strategy for historic preservation.
The architectural solution conserves all the non-deteriorated cultural assets, maintaining the authentic integrity of Locust Walk, yet allowing for a very different set of requirements and conditions at the back. Using a clear strategy of repair and proper cleaning, the historic preservation of the masonry and limestone façades is impeccable. Featuring a muscular black steel and glass system, the north façade admits natural light into this deep, narrow building. The design represents literal and figurative transparency—views out and views into the building from campus showing student activity.
New construction also features exterior party walls built in pewter-colored manganese iron-spot brick with matching mortar, complimenting the neighboring buildings—each a different red brick—without imitation. The bricks are laid in an elegant vertical soldier course with a staggered bond. On the second and third floors, the brick gives way to a 14″-deep series of tapered, dark grey steel mullions infilled with tall glass panels. Detailed to slide beyond the ceiling plan and roof, the steel façade’s appearance is abstract and bold while blending effortlessly with its surroundings.
Inside, spaces are meticulously planned for utmost efficiency with the elevator, mechanical systems and restrooms along the east wall. The innovative use of a space-saving scissor stair as primary circulation allowed for two-story openings into the center of the plan. The program is stacked from the more public facilities on the first floor to more private spaces on the third. It contains areas for informal student gatherings, small study spaces, a few offices, and a multi-use “smart” classroom. Coupled with brightly-colored furnishings and clean, modern lines, the day-lit spaces are pleasurable for group study.
Our emphasis on careful material selection and robust, sustainable systems earned the building a LEED Gold certification, but a continued commitment to conservation remains paramount. Ultimately, the renovation returns “Larry Robbins House” to the original spirit of its residential past but updated to meet modern educational needs.