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[Saad Saadi/The Summer Pennsylvanian] The future site of Skirkanich Hall sits in the Engineering Quadrangle between the Towne Building and the Moore School Building. The Bioengineering Department will move into the cutting-edge facility in December of 20

What is now a giant hole in the ground in the middle of the 33rd Street-side of the Engineering Quadrangle will, by the end of 2005, become one of the most modern buildings on campus.

Skirkanich Hall -- located on the site of the now-demolished Pender Laboratories -- will house the Bioengineering Department, give the School of Engineering and Applied Science a very large addition of lab space for research, and provide it with a grand entrance point accessible from 33rd Street.

"It's going to be the best building on campus and I will put my signature on that," said Eduardo Glandt, dean of the Engineering School.

The construction project will complete the Engineering Quadrangle, build a courtyard in its center, and face another current project across 33rd Street -- an open grassy area modeled after College Green.

After Skirkanich is completed, the Bioengineering Department -- now the largest of six departments in the Engineering School -- will move into its new facility with five floors of lab space.

We will "add more instructional labs to the school [with Skirkanich] than in many, many years," said Glandt.

The construction of Skirkanich represents a growth in interest in bioengineering, said Glandt.

"It's a national trend, but it's most intense here because of our closeness to the School of Medicine," he said. "There is a perception among students that one of the final frontiers of engineering is medicine."

With such an emphasis placed on bioengineering, Skirkanich Hall has been carefully planned.

The building -- designed by prominent Manhattan architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien -- looks to be both functional and attractive.

"Eduardo, as dean of engineering, is someone who aspires to a tremendously efficient and effective space but one that is also aesthetically pleasing," said Omar Blaik, senior vice president of Facilities and Real Estate Services.

The architects "are using a new type of glazed brick. It looks like a natural material, but actually is man-made .... It's going to be a spectacular building," said Glandt.

The design also aims to ease the flow of students and faculty through the halls of the Engineering Quadrangle.

In the center of the Quadrangle, there will be an "exquisite, almost Japanese garden ... enclosed by a wall, with a pond and a waterfall going into it," said Glandt.

According to Blaik, the building fits with the University's overall plans for that area of campus.

"With the [University's] master plan's emphasis on the growth and expansion of campus to the east, a major effort we have been undertaking is ... to create a public gateway to the campus," he said.

The tennis courts across the street will also be moved to make room for an open, grassy area to be known as Palestra Green.

"Skirkanich takes full advantage of [the planned Palestra Green] with a lot of transparency and windows that look over that possibility and would really have wonderful views of Center City, Franklin Field and the Palestra," he said.

Construction on Skirkanich Hall comes one year after the opening of Levine Hall, another award-winning building in the Engineering Quad.

The school is currently looking toward another project -- a nanotechnology center on Walnut Street that will act as a gateway to the University's campus.

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