Historic Buildings Renovated at PA University


New York-based Deborah Berke Partners has recently transformed two late Victorian townhouses on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus in Philadelphia.

Known as the “Meeting and Guesthouse,” the historic structures total 17,250 square feet and date back to 1898. Previously, the buildings were used to house offices for the School of Arts and Sciences.

Now revamped for a price of $26 million, the pair aim to serve as a 21st century destination, providing a place to greet campus guests, host strategic meetings and trustee gatherings, in addition to serving as a space for visiting dignitaries and holding special events.

“The project balances respect for the residential nature of the streetscape with the current needs of the university,” Stephen Brockman, project lead, told reporters.

Penn Meeting and Guesthouse Updates

In looking at updates to the exterior, crews preserved the buildings’ historic Walnut Street facade, repointed the brickwork, reglazed the original windows, installed a new roof and repaired various decorative elements.

Other upgrades involved relocating the primary entrance to the Meeting and Guesthouse to the south side of the building facing Locust Walk in a new at-grade, fully accessible addition off a shared motor court. On the east side of the structures, where a parking lot used to be, now features a landscaped bluestone terrace for outdoor and tented events.

“The bold addition is accessible, welcoming and contextual, and it reorients the building toward a new, richly planted terrace,” said Brockman.

The rear and east sides of the buildings are also reported to feature a new terracotta façade in a tripartite arrangement that reflects the massing of the original building. According to Deborah Berke Partners, “the material relates to but reinterprets the roman brick of the original building.”

Inside, the new lobby features floor to ceiling glass window walls that open to the new terrace. To get to the half level of the building, visitors can now take the elevator or stairs, where they will be met with a conference room that adjoins a flexible meeting and event space.

On the second floor, the team created a board room and multi-purpose meeting space, in addition to offices. On the third and fourth floors, crews designed four suites and offices for important guests of the campus.

All the rooms reveal a collection of neutral tones with pops of color, and a blending of historic details with contemporary decor.

In addition, the renovated design includes several sustainable elements, including a high-performance building envelope and energy-efficient mechanical systems. Since its completion, Meeting and Guesthouse has been LEED Gold certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The project has also received several awards including: Editors’ Pick in the Institutional - Higher Education Category for AN Best of Design Awards, 2021; an Honor Award from SARA NY, 2021; an Excellence Award from SARA National, 2021; and was named an Honoree for the Interior Design Magazine Best of Year Award, 2021.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architectural history; Architecture; Colleges and Universities; Color + Design; Color + Design; Commercial / Architectural; Commerial/Architectural; Completed projects; Design; Design - Commercial; Designers; Historic Structures; Landscape architects; Modernist architecture; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management

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