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Urban Engineers Celebrates Completion of University of Pennsylvania’s Arts, Research, and Culture House
Publication Date
February 14th 2014

The University of Pennsylvania recently completed a $24.5 million renovation of its Arts, Research and Culture House (The ARCH), transforming the historic building into a center for campus life that builds on the cultural diversity of Penn students and offers an intellectual and social experience for the entire University community.

Working with SaylorGregg Architects, Urban Engineers (Urban) provided civil/site, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection design services for the The ARCH renovation project. As part of the restoration, the original features of the late Gothic Revival building were carefully preserved and restored. This includes the building’s wood wall paneling and grand stairway, four terracotta chimneys, delicate limestone carving and ornamental plasterwork, leaded windows and slate roof.


“The completion of the renovated ARCH building marks a new focal point for cultural life on campus,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said. “The new ARCH celebrates the best of the building’s remarkable history while embracing technology and design to create a state-of-the art hub for campus life. I’m pleased that this renovated building will support the diverse intellectual and social student experience that distinguishes Penn and adds to our eminence.”


The ARCH will offer a central location on campus for students to gather, study, dine, enjoy art exhibitions and stage or attend performances. It will serve as the gateway to the Penn student experience combining research and cultural identity. The ARCH is home to three cultural resource centers: La Casa LatinaMakuu: The Black Cultural Center and the Pan-Asian American Community House. These student-focused centers share the building with the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, a new café, lounges, study spaces and a high-tech multi-use auditorium/classroom.


“We are excited to launch the new ARCH as the crossroads of our community,” Provost Vincent Price said. “It brings together two of Penn’s highest priorities –- undergraduate research and our cultural centers -– in a vibrant space that places them at the heart of campus life.”


Students from the cultural groups were also invited to participate in the design process, which helped to define the newly imagined spaces that combine communal areas with modern technology.


As part of the renovation, the ground floor, which houses the cultural resource groups, underwent the most dramatic transformation. This space now allows students to flow and mingle across a new open-plan “living room” with built-in banquette seating and glassed-in suites and high ceilings providing generous light.

On the first floor, visitors can socialize or study in The DiLorenzo Lounge and meeting rooms or on the outdoor terrace. Among the highlights is a new café, featuring locally sourced Mexican-American cuisine from Chicago Chef Rick Bayless.


A second-floor auditorium equipped with interactive digital and multi-media capabilities functions as a premier classroom for large lecture courses for as many as 150 students. A flexible seating system in the auditorium enables its transformation into a performance space, banquet hall or venue for talks by scholars.


The University’s primary resource for undergraduate research, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, provides research and fellowship advising to some 1,300 students and is home to the Benjamin Franklin Scholars and University Scholars programs. CURF will occupy the second and third floors in modernized spaces, enabling it to expand its program offerings.

Built in 1928 to house the Christian Association, the building was purchased by the University in 1999 and is listed in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.


To view photos of the opening, click here or here.