ARCH gets $15M for major overhaul

Renovations to transformed ARCH building to a ‘hub’ for students

· April 28, 2011, 4:43 am   ·  Updated April 28, 2011, 12:00 am

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A recent donation to the ARCH building includes plans for a new auditorium. The renovations are expected to take around three years to complete.


The University has secured an anonymous $15 million donation to fund a major renovation to the ARCH building, Penn President Amy Gutmann announced at Wednesday evening’s University Council meeting.

The renovations, expected to be completed by the spring of 2014, will “transform the building into a central hub for student life where students can gather to socialize and attend classes,” Gutmann said.

Among other changes — which include the addition of an elevator and a new climate-control system — the second-floor auditorium will be transformed into a “state-of-the-art” classroom, which can be converted into a multi-purpose programming space in the evening, Rob Nelson, executive director for education and planning in the Office of the Provost, wrote in an email.

While the University has been interested in renovating the ARCH since 2000, it first commissioned a feasibility study for the ARCH renovations from SaylorGregg Architects in 2007, Nelson wrote. He added that the search for a donor began after the study was completed in 2009.

Gutmann has been working on securing the donation as a part of Penn’s Making History Campaign.

“This is a huge amount of money,” Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum said. “For [Penn] to secure this gift with the current economic situation, coming out of a recession, it’s extraordinary.”

Although the changes to the ARCH will be significant, “much of the work will involve preserving the historic elements of the exterior and interior of the building,” Nelson wrote.

The goal is “to take a building that is truly dilapidated and make it into a more beautiful space and a much more usable space,” Gutmann added.

The building currently houses cultural centers like La Casa Latina, Makuu and the Pan-Asian American Community House, as well as the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships and the Benjamin Franklin Scholars and University Scholars programs — which will receive updated offices and meeting spaces.

Because the renovations are likely to take three years, ARCH organizations will have to relocate during that time, CURF director Harriet Joesph wrote in an email.

However, Asian Pacific Student Coalition chairman and College junior Nicky Singh said the renovations are necessary to preserve the building as a center for student cultural life. He added that collaboration between the University and student groups housed in the ARCH will be necessary throughout the renovations to ensure that the needs of students are met.

“We want this building to be a great resource for all,” Singh added, “But we don’t want to take away from what we already have — we want to build on it.”

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