Student life is already underway at the new gateway to Penn’s main campus.

Student life is already underway at the new gateway to Penn’s main campus.

Situated in one of America’s signature cities, the campus of the University of Pennsylvania is a vibrant, ever evolving center of learning, living and discovery that beats with a heart of its own. 

At least that’s the way I’ve come to feel about it, having shot so many of its classic and contemporary facilities and facades over the years. 

Façades of patterned brick seem to change with the shifting sun; tall glass enclosed areas indicate shared social spaces.

Façades of patterned brick seem to change with the shifting sun; tall glass enclosed areas indicate shared social spaces.

So it was with more than typical enthusiasm that I took on this assignment to capture the many facets of what Penn has dubbed “New College House.” This brand new residence (the first since the 1970s) houses over 300 students, faculty and house masters and includes dining facilities and wide-ranging social spaces.

Timber and concrete lend a somewhat rustic, but sophisticated feel to the building’s main entrance, one that complements the meticulous landscaping.

Timber and concrete lend a somewhat rustic, but sophisticated feel to the building’s main entrance, one that complements the meticulous landscaping.

Designed by the architectural firm of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the project transforms one of the university’s last major open green spaces into a focal point of campus life while preserving and literally raising the profile of that green space (via a “lifted lawn”).

The view along 34th Street is stately serenity.

The view along 34th Street is stately serenity.

On the morning of the shoot, as I made my way around the residence (to call it a “dorm” would be unfair), I discovered that each view offered a different perspective on the building and its surroundings – a bit like college itself. 

A low profile stairway about midway along Chestnut Street provides public access to the lawn.

A low profile stairway about midway along Chestnut Street provides public access to the lawn.

As these images were to be used to accompany an article in Penn’s alumni magazine, Pennsylvania Gazette, heralding the opening of the facility, I was determined to capture this quality and further illustrate how the building’s design, with its redbrick exterior, limestone trim and tiered glass stairwells, serves as an inviting gateway to the greater campus just beyond.

The publicly accessible “lifted lawn” rises up to offer an open invitation to all. 

The publicly accessible “lifted lawn” rises up to offer an open invitation to all. 

The inner courtyard lies at the crossroads of living, learning, social and dining spaces.

The inner courtyard lies at the crossroads of living, learning, social and dining spaces.

Concurrent with this assignment, Penn’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations planned to showcase the new construction as part of its 10-city “Our Penn” tour, highlighting new developments on campus.  This called for a range of additional shots (some aerial) depicting ways in which its first residents were already embracing the building and its environment.

Green is emphasized above as well as below. 

Green is emphasized above as well as below. 

Just west of Center City Philadelphia, New College House stands out as a true urban oasis.

Just west of Center City Philadelphia, New College House stands out as a true urban oasis.

If it could ever be said that a space pulsates with a life of its own, let it be said about New College House.

 

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