information_commons_view_looking_east_at_student_study_lounge

(Courtesy of Jennifer Rizzi)

What began as part of a plan to drive traffic from Locust Walk to Penn Park has developed into the construction of a study space at Franklin Field that will culminate in February.

The Information Commons at Franklin Field, a 7,000-square foot mezzanine study space in the George A. Weiss Pavilion with a price tag of $2.55 million, will have the capacity to hold more than 180 students for group or individual study.

Penn President Amy Gutmann first envisioned turning the space into a study lounge for students after taking a tour of the Weiss Pavilion soon after its completion in spring 2010. While walking through the building, she had the idea to add an academic atmosphere to the already recreational and athletic center.

“I have many challenges, but I also have many delights,” Gutmann said at the Board of Trustees’ Facilities and Campus Planning Meeting on Nov. 3. “This has been a delight.”

The plan was developed in conjunction with Facilities and Real Estate Services, the Provost’s Office, Penn Libraries and the President’s Office.

“We hope it will be a beacon welcoming the students coming to study and visiting the school,” Joel Sanders, the primary architect for the building, said at the same meeting.

The Information Commons is expected to be a major addition to Penn Connects, the University’s ongoing plan for eastward expansion.

“With the Weiss Pavilion, [the] Fox [Fitness Center], Penn Park, this and then Shoemaker Green, this whole area east of 33rd Street has completely changed,” Mark Kocent, principal planner for FRES, said.

The Commons has views overlooking Shoemaker Green, an open green space that is due to be completed in August.

For the months between the opening of the Information Commons and the completion of Shoemaker Green, students will have a “front row seat to a beautiful park being built,” Kocent said.

“We knew we had a great space when contractors would bring in plastic chairs and have their lunch looking out at the view,” he added.

In addition to adding to Penn’s expansion goals and enlivening the walk to Penn Park, the Information Commons is intended to increase study spaces for students who spend time on the eastern end of campus.

“The Commons is an effort to provide a pleasant atmosphere for students to work in an area where there is need,” Director of Public Services for Penn Libraries Marjorie Hassen said.

While the Information Commons will be located at Franklin Field, Gutmann wants to ensure that the lounge will be open to all Penn students.

Kocent agreed, adding that “the hope is that students in the Engineering precinct and School of Arts and Science students in David Rittenhouse Laboratories will buy lunch nearby and sit on the green or study in the lounge.”

This week, workers have been installing a rain-screen in the ceiling structure to collect water that leaks in from the bleachers of Franklin Field that lie directly above the Information Commons.

Students expressed mixed feelings about whether or not they would use the Information Commons once it opens.

“I could just as easily use the Engineering library [on the second floor of the Towne building],” School of Engineering and Applied Sciences sophomore Nishant Neel said.

“If I was in that area for an hour or more I would go study there,” SEAS sophomore Jonathan Bryan said.

Once the Information Commons comes closer to its opening, Penn Libraries will begin to publicize the new study area.

“We will have to do something to get the word out,” Gutmann said.

Hassen is confident that students will come, especially because the building will offer eight group study rooms.

“We’ll never have enough group study rooms,” Hassen said. “We can keep building them and they’ll still get full.”

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