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Construction plans for Skirkanich Hall have entered the final phase of design, with work scheduled to start at the end of the semester and reach completion by January 2006.

The project is now in the construction document phase, where architects and engineers transform the designs into a schematic for the contractors.

Designed to be the new home of the Bioengineering Department, Skirkanich Hall will be built on 33rd Street where the Pender Laboratory was located before it was destroyed this past summer.

The $42 million building will connect with the Towne and Moore buildings, completing the Engineering quadrangle formed with Levine Hall.

"I wanted it [to be located there] because proximity is an intellectual value," School of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Eduardo Glandt said. "It contributes to the compactness of the campus."

The building is also the answer to the growing popularity of the Bioengineering Department, which houses more than 30 percent of the Engineering student body.

"The Engineering School is in desperate need for lab space for its bioengineering research," Bioengineering Department Chairman Daniel Hammer said. "We could have built and filled a building twice the size of it."

He added that a new facility was imperative for the continuation of research projects within the department, since most of the Engineering buildings are too old to house the necessary equipment.

Skirkanich Hall is part of a $60 million project to revamp the Bioengineering Department -- a necessity given the high level of collaboration between the department and the University's School of Medicine.

To construct the building, $14 million was awarded by the Whitaker Foundation through the Leadership Development Award. The Engineering School can also count on $10 million donated by Penn Engineering Overseer and Trustee Peter Skirkanich and his wife Geri -- the largest gift from an individual in the Engineering School's history.

Funds will also come from a grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health and various other donations, including the $1 million gift by University Trustee Mitch Quain for the construction of the central courtyard that will bear his name.

"It is an integrated, fully connected complex," University Architect Charles Newman said. "It will create a public entry to the [Engineering School] from 33rd Street. It will be possible to walk right under the building into the courtyard and through Levine Hall toward Chancellor Walk."

Glandt added that "33rd Street is a very boring block, and this will really change it."

The building will expand outward in the upper floors with a facade made in thick, dark glass. It will contain both teaching and research spaces, with state-of-the-art laboratories for both graduate and undergraduate students. The courtyard will also be a distinctive feature of the building.

"The courtyard avoids the 'hospital syndrome' -- you don't know in which building you are," Glandt said. "It's a visual point of reference and will be the living room of the whole school."

Built in granite, the courtyard will be divided into three areas -- the main level, the raised level located above the main auditorium and a sunken secret garden with a dense wall of trees and a fountain.

The architectural firm hired for the project is Tod Williams Billie Tsien & Associates, a New York-based firm that in the past has taken up projects such as the Museum of American Folk Art in Manhattan, for which they won the World Architecture Arup Award in 2001.

"We chose a signature as the architectural firm," Glandt said. "They do things lovingly and take very few clients per year."

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