UPenn Student Residence Renovated For LEED Gold

Designed by renowned architect Eero Saarinen, the updated Hill College House in Philadephia welcomes students for the 2017-18 academic year.

Hill College House at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (Photo ©Aislinn Weidele/Mills + Schnoering Architects)

Designed by renowned Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen and built in 1960, Hill College House at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia has undergone a 15 month, $80 million renovation. The internationally recognized landmark has reopened for the 2017-18 academic year as a student residence for 500, along with a number of other space types and amenities.

Targeted for LEED Gold certification, this five-story, 195,000 square foot brick student residence underwent a comprehensive renovation, preserving Saarinen’s design vision for communal living with multiple public spaces at varying physical and social scales. Originally a women’s dormitory, Hill College House features an allegorical entry bridge over a landscaped “moat” and surrounding spiked metal fence. Student lounges and seminar rooms are built around a vast central atrium that overlooks a dining area on the lower level.

student residence
Atrium in recently renovated Hill College House at the University of Pennsylvania (Photo ©Aislinn Weidele/Mills + Schnoering Architects)

“In this complex and challenging renovation, Mills + Schnoering Architects has designed multiple deft interventions that accumulate into a complete refresh of this important building — one that respects and invigorates Saarinen’s design and the community life it so richly fosters,” said University Architect David Hollenberg.

Mills + Schnoering Architects of Princeton, NJ led the design and construction team. Specialists in historic renovation, the firm previously worked on Saarinen’s Gateway Arch in Saint Louis, MO. “Our approach respects the original Saarinen Hill College House design, preserving its legacy,” said the firm’s Partner-in-Charge, Michael Mills, FAIA. “Our choices were inspired both by the integrity of the architecture and by the contemporary student experience, with a design meant to balance the two in a welcoming, accessible student residence.”

Features of the renovation design include:

  • Expansion of dining facilities by 50%, including major kitchen upgrades.
  • Restoration of the iconic “drawbridge” entrance and landscaped “moat.”
  • Removal, restoration, and refitting of over 400 windows.
  • New furniture and finishes designed to echo the building’s midcentury style and
  • Reinterpret Saarinen’s bold color palette and furnishings.
  • All new MEP systems and the introduction of air conditioning.
  • Conversion of all bathrooms to individual restrooms and shower rooms.
  • Installation of LED lighting in the center atrium.
  • New elevator and lift to provide accessibility compliance.
  • Perimeter wall insulation, a new roof, and restoration of two outdoor courtyards.

Project goals included strengthening the sense of community at the heart of Hill College House’s original design and respecting the historic significance of the building’s materials and details, by maintaining as much fabric and design intent as possible while inserting modern systems and amenities.

The renovated facility includes:

student residence
(Photo ©Aislinn Weidele/Mills + Schnoering Architects)
  • 261 student rooms (206 doubles, 41 singles, 11 ADA singles, and 3 RA singles)
  • 5 faculty apartments
  • 15 graduate assistant apartments
  • 161 gender-neutral bathrooms
  • 5,750 square foot main dining facility
  • 300 main dining facility seats
  • 1,810 square feet of private dining
  • 29,505 square feet of social spaces
  • 19 atrium lounges
  • 17 corridor lounges