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Hamilton Village Towers, University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA
MGA Partners Architects

Individual identities transform a dilapidated superblock housing complex into three new college houses.

Nearly half of the on-campus undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania live in three 1960’s highrise towers on the western edge of the campus. Over four decades, these buildings, and the site around them, had become unsuited to the needs of contemporary students, despised, and tired.  Initially considered for demolition, the towers have been given new life as part of a larger campus development plan.  This project, designed by MGA Partners Architects, transforms the three buildings architecturally and programmatically to become college houses, each with its own character and identity.

Hamilton Village Towers, University of Pennsylvania
Photo © Barry Halkin Photography

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The towers are sited in a “superblock,” with houses and neighborhoods cleared for their construction, as were so many projects in the Robert Moses tradition of that time.  Now part of the university’s initiative to strengthen ties to the western neighborhoods (and winner of an Urban Land Institute award), the redesigned campus green creates a new residential quad with a strong sense of place, encouraging access to a new retail and entertainment corridor in the adjacent urban district.

Failing not only sociologically and urbanistically, the three towers were also physically unworkable. The design replaces windows, using alternately repeating patterns that change the drab uniform facades giving them renewed vitality for the life inside. The architects created a basic window unit that could be altered for seven different conditions and could articulate patterns on the large building façades, using components of four different glass types and operating sashes.

The challenge to foster a unique identity for each of the three houses, beyond the crest and the constitution that each developed, was to provide an itinerary of spaces, from the campus walkway through to the individual rooms that would reinforce a sense of community among the house members.  This begins with a new porch at the main campus walkway, and extends through the public activity spaces throughout the ground level.  The public spaces renovated into the building reflect the programmatically different theme of each house, focusing on dance studios, seminar classrooms, cafes, reading rooms and computer facilities.  The quality of the individual environment echoes that of the social environment to model a rich and rewarding life—in the classroom, in public and in private. 

Formal name of project:
Hamilton Village Towers, University of Pennsylvania
Harnwell College House
Harrison College House
Rodin College House

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Gross square footage: 25,000 SF each of public areas in 3 buildings

Completion Date: September 2005

Total construction cost: $65 million for renovations of public areas and exteriors

Owner: Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania

Architect:
MGA Partners Architects
234 Market Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
tel  215.925.0100
fax..215.923.4258
www.mgapartners.com/

 

 

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