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$15 Million Gift to Enhance Student Life and Learning

May 3, 2011, Volume 57, No. 32


The University of Pennsylvania has received a $15 million gift from an anonymous donor to renovate the historic Arts, Research and Culture House (ARCH), to create a center for campus life that builds on the cultural diversity of Penn students and offers a rich intellectual and social experience for the entire University community.

The building, located at 36th Street and Locust Walk in the heart of Penn’s campus, was built in 1928 and is listed in the Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places.  It currently houses three cultural resource centers, La Casa Latina, Makuu: The Black Cultural Center and the Pan-Asian American Community House; as well as the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships; a classroom; an auditorium; and community spaces.

“This incredibly generous gift will transform a beloved landmark for new generations of students and help to ensure that arts, culture and undergraduate student research at Penn continue to thrive,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said. “The renovated ARCH building will be a campus hub, offering our students intellectual and artistic stimulation, state-of-the-art technology and spots to study, as well as opportunities to engage in diverse activities that define and distinguish the Penn experience.  By providing this gift, our donor will enable us to greatly enhance the quality of the student experience.”

The renovation is expected to be completed by early 2014.  It contains plans for an outdoor terrace on Locust Walk and an indoor café with a nearby lounge and gallery.  The new open plan for the first floor contains a common “living room” with comfortable seating, paneling, stone fireplaces and leaded glass windows that reflect the building’s historic provenance.

“We envision that this renovation will create a center that is used by a variety of groups from all over campus and will introduce an even wider circle of students and Penn community members to the ARCH,” Penn Provost Vincent Price said. “Penn students are eclectic, busy and plugged in. This reconfigured space will provide a variety of avenues in which they can explore interests and connect with other students.”

As part of the renovation the second-floor auditorium will serve as a premier classroom for large lecture courses of as many as 150 students.  The space will contain an interactive teaching-learning environment where multi-media, access to digital information and interconnectivity is fully integrated.  In the evening, the auditorium will be utilized for lectures, receptions, recitals and other programs.

Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships is the University’s primary resource for undergraduate research, currently serving some 1,300 students.  As part of the renovation, CURF will occupy larger, modernized spaces, enabling the program to accommodate more students.

The renovation of the ARCH building is a core priority of Penn’s Making History Campaign.

The project is based on a feasibility study conducted by architectural firm SaylorGregg Architects. SaylorGregg completed the historic renovations to Penn’s Fisher-Bennett Hall in 2006 and has extensive experience integrating leading-edge technology into historic buildings.

Almanac - May 3, 2011, Volume 57, No. 32