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Weaving Connections: University City to Center City
July 14, 2009, Volume 56, No. 01


Balmond, Cecil

Cecil Balmond, (above) the Paul Philippe Cret Practice Professor of Architecture in Penn’s School of Design, and the world-renowned structural engineer and designer of the Weave Bridge describes the unique bridge as “coiling in space.”

The Weave Bridge—crafted from a unique mix of steel, wood, and polymers— provides pedestrian access over the Amtrak rail lines (seen below, looking north from the bridge) from the main portion of the University of Pennsylvania campus to the athletic fields and ROTC center at the Hollenback Center both during the current reconstruction phase of the South Street Bridge and beyond.


The Weave Bridge, a 45 ton creation, is the first structure in the Penn Connects campus development plan to be finished. It represents Penn’s first real “connection” between University City and Center City. The Bridge will be part of the Penn Park, the centerpiece of Penn Connects: A Vision for the Future, the University’s 30-year master plan published in 2006. See www.pennconnects.upenn.edu. 


Penn Park, a new urban park, will replace 14 acres of parking lots previously owned by the US Postal Service and connect to Penn’s existing athletic fields. Upon completion in 2011, it will total 24 acres of open space including tightly interwoven recreation and athletic components. Formal and informal playing fields will be framed and subdivided by patches of canopy trees extending the familiar landscape of the campus.

Penn Park, a $40 million project, combines elements of sports activity with the opportunity for relaxation and informal play. The area bound by Walnut Street, South Street, the Schuylkill River and Penn’s main campus is being designed by landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and features four athletic fields, a dozen tennis courts, a multi-level elevated pedestrian walk that will allow movement throughout the site and a raised central plaza with Center City skyline views.

The playing fields will be framed by tree-topped berms interspersed with seating and native-species meadow grasses to diversify and beautify the landscape and provide a natural habitat. An innovative storm-water management system is being installed to capture and divert rain water in underground cells to supply the site’s irrigation system.

“This is the first time that Penn, by design, has acquired land that will remain as open space, which has tremendous environmental benefits for our campus and the city” Penn President Amy Gutmann said. “Penn Park will dramatically enhance our athletic and recreational amenities, create a beautiful new campus gateway and further link University City and Center City.”

Pedestrians will be able to access the park from Walnut Street, 31st Street (lower level) and the Goldie Paley Bridge from Franklin Field. The park will extend Penn’s campus all the way to the Schuylkill River and will be open to the public. The athletic fields will be used for regulation, club and intramural competitions and practices and for public access at specified times.

Meanwhile, work has begun on the new Weiss Pavilion, at Franklin Field (above). When completed next year, it will offer student-athletes an array of facilities in the 22,000 square foot facility. The design proposes an infill of the long arcade on the northern side of Weiss Pavilion for a new Weight Training and Fitness Center. It will inhabit the space of the arches on two levels and connect the interior concourse space under the stadium bleachers with the new east-west exterior pedestrian promenade.

Photographs by Marguerite Miller.

See www.facilities.upenn.edu for more information about Penn’s projects and plans.

Weave Bridge

Almanac - July 14, 2009, Volume 56, No. 01