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2009 W. E. B. Du Bois College House Renovations
February 3, 2009, Volume 55, No. 20

Du Bois College House

Above, the architectural rending by MGA Partners, of Du Bois College House, at 3900 Walnut Street showing some of the major renovations announced for the four-story building including the large new “picture window” in the Multipurpose Room on the first floor.

W.E.B. Du Bois College House is named for the famous sociologist and civil rights pioneer whose research at Penn in 1896-97 resulted in the landmark sociological study, The Philadelphia Negro. The College House was designed by Mario Romanach, a Cuban-American professor of architecture at Penn. His innovative design turned its back on slick, high-tech modernism and instead used earth-toned, roughly-textured concrete and brick.

The University of Pennsylvania has announced renovation plans for W. E. B. Du Bois College House, part of a continuing capital improvement effort for all Penn College Houses. The 2009 project builds upon $1.8 million spent in the last five years on building renovations at Du Bois House, which was built in 1971.

MGA Partners, the Philadelphia-based architectural firm responsible for renovations in Penn’s high-rise dormitories, has been hired for the project.

“More than 100 years ago, W. E. B. Du Bois wisely noted that, ‘Education is that whole system of human training within and without the school house walls, which molds and develops men,’” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “Today, the College House system enriches the education of all Penn students by developing minds outside of the classroom. This renovation will preserve that mission not only by enhancing residents’ quality of life, but also by providing a fine learning environment for the men and women of Penn and West Philadelphia.”

Excavation of the existing landscaping will begin as early as March 2009 with all of the major work scheduled to be done over the summer. Student room improvements will include fresh paint and new furniture. Bathroom fixtures and finishes will be renovated or replaced. New lighting, floor tiles, exhaust fans and in-room electrical panels and radiator covers will be installed. Numerous exterior and public space improvements are planned. The building’s exterior will be washed, bricks re-pointed and masonry restored. New windows will be installed with brighter glass, casements, screens and mini-blinds. Additional improvements are planned for the multipurpose room, first floor common kitchen, first floor computer lab, house office, lounges and public restrooms.

The Du Bois renovation project is part of a number of ongoing renovations to Penn’s 11 College Houses and the Sansom Place East and West apartment style high-rises.

Almanac - February 3, 2009, Volume 55, No. 20