Awards of Excellence 2004 – New College House Student Residence

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Patkau Architects

The site for this student residence is on the northeastern boundary of the University of Pennsylvania campus adjacent to Woodland Walk and Hill Square. While it is clearly part of the university, it is also a major entrance to the campus and an important transitional zone which connects the academic centre of the campus to the city. New College House will be an immediate neighbour to historic Silverman Hall and Hill College House by Eero Saarinen.

Throughout the heart of campus, the finely grained public infrastructure is defined by buildings which are similarly scaled, almost delicate, and rich with detail and material texture. The building context defining Hill Square is extremely heterogeneous in terms of urban form and scale, and in terms of building form and detail. Currently, the campus landscape plan for Hill Square is an extension of the character of existing campus open spaces.

The 218,000-square-foot program of New College House is intended to construct a social structure which fosters community–an essential support system for the student who may be living away from home for the first time. The structure imagined begins with groups of approximately four to five students sharing one suite containing a small living space and bathroom facilities. Groups of suites totalling approximately 24 students are organized around a common lounge and mentored by a resident or graduate advisor. The residence will contain 12 of these groups with a faculty master, several faculty/senior fellows and a house dean distributed throughout the residence and available to the students for advice and support. The 12 clusters share a common lobby, lounges, dining room and kitchen facilities, a reading room/library, exercise facilities, music and performance spaces, computer lab, offices, conference facilities and classrooms, mail services and bicycle room.

Architecturally, the spatial structure of the residence will necessarily reflect the social structure upon which the College House system is based. This will result in a hierarchy of spaces scaled from major urban spaces such as Hill Square, which collect the university and surrounding community as a whole, through a series of intermediate social spaces, to the individual student room. This hierarchy of spaces has a two-fold purpose. Not only does it support a finely grained and scaled community, it also supports privacy, fostering individual needs and group definition in decisive ways.

To complement the rich and weighty qualities of the existing brick and stone buildings on the campus, large-scale translucent glass shingles were chosen as the exterior-most layer of a rainscreen wall. Glass shingles offer surface ripple and depth, luminosity and ineffability of surface. Colouring various areas behind the glass channels also results in unexpected surface sheen, further confounding depth.

Monteyne: On this large and meticulously planned project, the authors have used a rigorous design methodology to conjure a nuanced approach to a challenging urban campus site. The result is rich and varied, being both a substantial presence and a good neighbour. The sophisticated ordering of the cladding systems creates opportunities for individuality within the collective while producing an original pattern that ought to age gracefully.

Shnier: While this year’s assortment of submissions included its share of variegated faade-making, this proposal for a student residence manages to succeed in its task of reconciling the need to develop repeated units of student housing with creating opportunities for the reconstitution of social and circulation space. Ultimately, the resulting faade and massing is perceived as a result of these programme-driven gesticulations.

Yarinsky: This project is thoughtfully developed from the scale of the campus to the level of detail. The presentation is particularly clear. While several submissions proposed exterior walls composed as a pattern that obfuscates the relationship between window and wall, this project presented a convincing rationale and means of achieving this result. Particularly for this type of program and context, the design is quite innovative.

Client: University of Pennsylvania

Architect team: Tina Becker, Oliver Birett, Michael Cunningham, Gregory Graemiger, Samantha Hayes, Juliane Heinrich, Laura Killam, Hector Lo, Kayna Merchant, John Patkau, Patricia Patkau, Craig Simms

Structural: CVM Engineers

Mechanical: ARUP

Electrical: ARUP

Civil: Boles, Smyth Associates Inc.

Landscape: Reed Hilderbrand

Costing: Becker & Frondorf

Code: Gage-Babcock & Associates

Area: 218,000 ft2

Photography: James Dow