Adding to a long list of renovations projects beginning on campus next fall, David Rittenhouse Laboratory will also close for renovations for the 2016-17 academic year, the Board of Trustees announced Monday night.
The $83 million renovation is expected to last the entirety of the academic year and is being funded by an alumni donor that the Board declined to name. At the time of publication, it was unclear whether the building would be renamed in honor of the anonymous donor.
While DRL is under renovation, classes that would be held there will be moved to the Penn Museum. All faculty offices will be temporarily relocated to Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall and Huntsman Hall, the Board said, citing the buildings' convenient locations and close relationships with the faculty currently housed in DRL.
Though official plans for the renovation have not been released, Director of the Trustees Budget and Finance Committee Theodore Walker said that students can expect “big changes.”
Among the changes students can expect to see are a new coffee bar installed on the first floor, improved heating and insulation in classrooms and additional women’s restrooms installed to each floor. The renovations will also include a new scheme for numbering classrooms in the building, doing away with the old system that separates the building by cardinal directions with classroom names like 3W2 and 2N4. In the basement of the building, Walker said a fitness room and showers will be installed so students who dread the walk home never have to leave.
Outside the building, Walker also said that there are plans to widen 33rd Street to accommodate the considerable number of students who take taxis and Ubers to class.
While Walker was quick to note that the University does not condone students calling rides to class, he acknowledged that the number of students who make use of services like taxis, Ubers and Lyfts had become a problem for traffic. “The buildup of cars outside the building has become a problem for the traffic flow on campus,” he said. "It's a necessary addition," he said with an air of defeat and exasperation.
On top of the building, renovations will include the addition of a new observatory, which was financed by a separate alumni donation of $20 million. Though Walker also refused to name the second alumni donor, he did say that the observatory will search exclusively for extraterrestrial life.
For students, the renovations couldn’t come soon enough.
“I’ve been attending math and physics lectures in DRL for four years and it’s honestly a really emotionally depressing place to be,” College senior Warren Downes said. “I’m just mad it’s happening after I’m graduating.”
College and Wharton sophomore Jay Thomson agreed. “I’m not sure what’s been worse for me — taking 20 minutes to get to DRL, or taking 20 minutes to find the classroom once I get there. This will be a big improvement,” Thomson said. “I might actually be motivated to go to class now.”
Walker, too, expressed similar sentiments.
“It has been a concerted effort on the part of the University to improve the functionality and student experience of our facilities,” Walker said. “We felt like it was time for DRL.”
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