COUNCIL Addendum to 1997-98 Facilities Year End Report
The following is an addendum to the University
Council's 1997-98 Facilities Committee Report, which did not appear
in the print version.
- To: The Chairman of the Steering Committee
- cc: President Judith Rodin
- Executive Vice President John Fry
Date: May 5, 1998
- From: Prof. Anthony R. Tomazinis,
- Chairman, Facilities Committee Of the U.C.
Re: Proposed new Building for the Wharton School
The Facilities Committee of the University Council met on Monday May
4, from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Bishop White room of Houston Hall
in an emergency meeting called at the request of the Office of the Executive
Vice President to review the proposal for the erection of the new building
of the Wharton School. The new building is proposed for the site of the
current Bookstore, on 38th Street. The meeting was attended by almost all
members of the Facilities Committee (see attendance list) and on behalf
of the Wharton School by Dean Tom Gerrity, and Scott Douglas, Janice Bellace,
Associate Deans. Also the meeting was attended by Tom Ewing of Buildings
and Grounds Office, and by Dean Gary Hack, Chairman of the Design Review
Committee in an effort to provide any additional assistance that may be
needed for the Facilities Committee from the Design Review Committee's work
on this proposed building.
This meeting was conducted following a brief meeting that Dean Scott
Douglas and Dean Gary Hack provided on Friday May 1, at 3:30-4:30 p.m. in
order to inform Prof. Tomazinis to some extent on the details of this proposal.
Since the Monday meeting was going to be the first and the last meeting
of the Facilities Committee on this topic, the small, preparatory meeting
on Friday was considered to be very helpful to the overall understanding
of the project.
The presentation of the proposed building was done by Dean Gerrity, assisted
by the Dean's Scott Douglas and Janice Bellace. Also, Dean Hack provided
several additional technical pieces of information and explanations. After
the presentations, an exchange of questions and answers took place. The
general meeting was concluded at 10:30 a.m. and a closed door meeting of
the Committee took place for an hour in order that the members of the Committee
have an opportunity to review the matter confidentially and with complete
The conclusions of these two meetings are respectfully submitted here
to the chairman of the Steering Committee of the University Council for
199798. Some recommendations and reflections of a more general nature are
also submitted herewith.
- The Committee members almost in unison observed that this is the first
time that the Committee is called upon to review a pending important building
proposal and thus the amount of its experience on this matter is rather
limited; as a group, although many of its members have extensive personal
experiences on such matters.
- The composition of the Committee was not ideal for briefing, by two
senior deans of the University, and for review for such serious and urgent
- The preparation of the Committee members for such a review was quite
limited since their knowledge about the proposed building was based only
on what had been published before, and some brief discussions that had
taken place in the committee meetings on previous occasions. No advance
distribution of pertinent material took place, and there was no available
drawings to be reviewed carefully by any member of the committee, beforehand.
- The committee members also observed that there was no time available
to discuss the matter and consult with other colleagues before they could
render their opinion. They thought that two meetings on this matter would
have been much better than this single one meeting.
- Finally, it was also suggested that such matters should also have some
sort of public hearing that would invite interested and informed members
of the various University Constituencies to come and review the proposed
plans, receive all the available information, and finally express an informed
opinion. The Facilities Committee could monitor this opinion from the various
constituencies, incorporate this opinion in its deliberations, and then
express, the combined and informed views and recommendations of/to the
University Community. It was the pressure of the matter and the fact that
this was the first step towards the right direction, for a proper planning
advisory function of the Facilities Committee that enabled the Committee,
or provided the committee with the reasoning (or justification) to be involved
with this review of a new major building on the campus.
- Concerning specific aspects of the proposed building the committee
discussed the following items and submits the following concerns and views:
(a) On the matter of the site: The proposed site is a
reasonable one in terms of its location and size. It is located in reasonable
proximity to the rest of the Wharton facilities, it defines the current
Western corner of the educational enterprises of the campus and has good
exposure to the circulatory network of the campus. Also, the size of the
site is indeed appropriate for such a building. Still the proximity to
the Psychology Building and to the School of Social Work and School of
Education does add pressure for the proper redevelopment of that block
in order to increase its utility for the campus as a whole and for the
educational units located there.
(b) On the size of the proposed building: The committee
members expressed concerns about the height of the round tower (rotunda)
and its impressive diameter. The matter of its height produced serious
concerns since it will be almost twice as high as the neighboring buildings,
and will impose over all the other educational facilities of the campus.
Since its location is also on almost the highest point of the campus, its
height will loom much more impressive from some distance. The matter of
the diameter of the round tower, extending to about 40% of the width of
the block, increase the presence of the building, and makes it more imposing.
Although the Committee agrees that the Wharton School would benefit from
a building that would provide a physical identity to the school,
(offering an easy recognition of the school among its peers) it is still
considered too strong for the Penn campus, especially as it comes with
an imposing height and diameter. The members of the committee examined
several ideas offered in ameliorating this matter, and concluded with a
strong suggestion that in this late day in the design of the building the
only thing that is functionally possible is the reduction of the upper
part of the rotunda, above the eight floors. The total height of 134 feet
include the eight floors of usable space and about 34/36 feet of mechanicals.
The committee suggests that these 34/36 feet be reduced by 1014 feet by
taking out some of the mechanicals to be relocated on the ground or underground
floors, by properly extending them horizontally. The height of the building
thus will be reduced by 10 14 feet and will make it less overwhelming to
the rest of the campus. Architecturally this suggestion appears to be feasible
in terms of the overall appearance of the building. Otherwise the building
appears to be a strong, positive addition to the metric of the campus.
(c) The corner of 38th street and Walnut Street appear to be
in need of some more attention. As it is proposed today it would be a loading
dock only on the side of 38th street. Also any potential symmetry with
the opposite corner on the North side of 38th Street is completely ignored.
The committee wants to call the attention of the architectural team on
this comer in the hope that some positive addition can be found to reduce
this comer's hostility towards the street, its environment and toward all
pedestrians that have to experience that corner.
After all these points were made the committee wanted to make two overall
points, the following:
(i) The Committee suggests the endorsement of the proposed building
of the Wharton School in the current Bookstore site, based on the overall
design presented on May 4, 1998.
(ii) The Committee suggests that any future review of major new
construction on campus should engage the Facilities Committee well before
the Design Review Committee is engaged so that the Committee can pursue
the necessary planning function in a proper manner, with discussions that
involve alternative options and participation of the campus constituencies.
--Anthony R. Tomazinis, Chairman
* The Office of the Secretary is constructing a website where this and
other such addenda will be placed in the future.--Ed.
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Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 11, November 10, 1998
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