When the University of Pennsylvania launched a new institute that would aggregate all its international activities, it turned to an unlikely building for what would become the new headquarters of this major new initiative: a small run-down cottage built in 1851. A design, by 1100 Architect, preserved the house while transforming the site into a 21st century flagship for this newly formed institute. The Perry World House, as it is now called, will serve as the hub for global engagement, allowing affiliates from each of the university’s 12 schools to address international affairs in a cross-disciplinary way.
The new limestone-clad building sits at the heart of Penn’s campus, mediating two very different conditions: a pedestrian/domestic scale to its south and west, and a busy urban scale and traffic corridor to its north and east. The building’s facets allow it to modulate its scale in a seamless way, deferring to the original house, on one hand, but providing a strong edge to the busy street, on the other.
The design incorporates a significant portion of the existing house, which the architects meticulously preserved, per historic documentation. It now serves as a 50-person conference room and a student lounge. A vast atrium, the World Forum, provides abundantly daylit flexible space for up to 150 seats.
By suspending structure from above, the design allows interior spaces, including the soaring World Forum, to be column free. Because of the inter-disciplinary nature of the building’s program, the architects included a vast network of sightlines between interior spaces and between inside and outside.
On track for LEED Silver certification, the project incorporates many sustainable design features, including abundant natural light, stormwater capture, and energy -efficient fixtures. A landscape design helps shape usable outdoor space, becoming a more fluid node for the pedestrian experience.