Skirkanich Hall

Location: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Date of Completion: 2006
Program: Laboratory and Research Center
Size: 60,000 SF
Sustainability: LEED 2.0 Credit System Compliant
Awards: 2010 AIA Institute Honor Award for Architecture, 2008 AIANY Architecture Merit Award
Photographer: Michael Moran

Skirkanich Hall is home to the Bioengineering Department at the University of Pennsylvania, accommodating research and teaching laboratories, offices, and an auditorium. This building is both a gateway and a connector.

Skirkanich serves as the formal entrance to the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). Located in the heart of campus, Skirkanich sits between two historic structures by Paul Cret and Cope and Stewardson. The siting of the building creates a formal entry and central courtyard for SEAS.

Skirkanich asserts its own identity while enhancing the integrity of its neighbors. A luminous hand-glazed ceramic brick was specifically developed to clad the exterior façades. The iridescent green color connects to the ivy covered brick found throughout the campus. The corners of the building are interrupted by sheets of etched glass. The windows appear as giant shingles set at an angle to provide diffused light to the fourteen-foot high laboratory spaces.

The entry is sheltered by the building mass which cantilevers thirty-five feet over the side walk. Passing under, visitors can enter the building or reach the courtyard by an exterior inclined path. The multileveled courtyard serves as a public plaza and passageway, a place for discourse and impromptu meetings, while an intimate and walled garden area is a quiet space for contemplation.

From the interior, Skirkanch Hall horizontally connects the adjacent buildings, providing a “street” on the second floor that links the different department of SEAS. The auditorium, located twenty feet below grade, shared an atrium with the ground floor entrance. The atrium continues up through five floors. A central stair, finished with a custom vibrant yellow tile pattern, provides an inviting path through the building. Laboratories are placed on the perimeter of the upper floors, organized around service and circulation spaces. The laboratories, designed for teaching and research, are open, flexible, and filled with natural light from north-facing windows. A cast-in-place concrete fire stair was designed with triple height spaces and views of the exterior courtyard.

The auditorium, located twenty feet below grade, shares the atrium with the ground floor entrance. The void continues up through five floors. A custom vibrant yellow tile was created to reference the nearby Gingko trees. It fills the space and the rest of the building with light and life.

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