2015 Expanded Environment Awards: MONSTER – Runner-Up
selected for Retrospecta 38
program: School of Design, University of Pennsylvania
location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
advisor: Emily Abruzzo
The first rule of this architecture school is: There are no artificial lights. Students come at sunrise and leave when it gets dark. The second rule of this architecture school is: Students are not assigned desks. They move from space to space, desk to desk, performing different tasks and interacting with different people according to changes in light and shadow.
The project is a critique of current architecture education and its precipitation of students who subscribe to their own sense of time. They grow disconnected from the society they are meant to aid, isolating themselves at studio desks where a sense of the greater environment does not exist.
The conceptual diagram for this purely daylit building is a mat with different roofs which receive and modulate light differently. However, because the site is unable to accommodate the program in a mat, half of the building folds up and creates a tower where roofs are treated as windows.
The tower depth is sized in response to studies of early American high-rises, and functions are matched to different lighting conditions created by different roofs. Shadow studies inform locations for specific programs in the mat. For instance, the darkest spots on site are carved away, creating openings into the basement.
The roofscape not only expresses the incongruous internal episodes but extends the historicity of UPenn which strove to differentiate itself from other Ivy League institutions by preparing students for careers in business and public service. This was expressed in UPenn’s architecture which eschewed histrionics and embraced utility. Now, these utilitarian origins produce a civic scale monument and placemarker at an important campus intersection.