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If Benjamin Franklin were still alive, Skirkanich Hall would be his favorite building on campus, Engineering Dean Eduardo Glandt predicted.

Nicknamed Penn's "miracle on 33rd Street" by University President Amy Gutmann, Skirkanich officially opened yesterday.

Delighting architecture aficionados and garnering mixed reactions from bioengineering students, Skirkanich will house the University's bioengineering community.

Glandt and Gutmann led the dedication ceremony, which was attended by more than 300 bioengineers, University officials, architects, builders and an assortment of other personalities.

In her speech at the ceremony, Gutmann said she guessed Skirkanich will not only be hailed the best new building in Philadelphia - a title bestowed by Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron - but "one of the best new buildings in the country."

Skirkanich has been in use since the beginning of the year, but the event - which included a lunch decorated in the building's color scheme and a ribbon-cutting ceremony - marked the official completion of construction.

Although Engineering officials had initially planned for an earlier dedication date - construction was set to end in February of this year - setbacks delayed it.

Michael Healey, who works with the building's contracting firm, Skanska USA, said "a lot of pain and suffering" went into building Skirkanich, which is sandwiched between two other buildings.

Skirkanich was designed by the architecture team of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, both of whom were present at the dedication.

The building fits in on the campus, said Philip Ryan - the project architect for Skirkanich from Tod Williams/Billie Tsien - since it does not copy the architecture of surrounding buildings, but it is also not "something totally different, like a glass box."

Faculty and students agree that the building meets the needs of the bioengineering program.

Bioengineering professor Beth Winkelstein, who has a lab in the building and will teach there next semester, said the University did an admirable job of creating the necessary laboratory space.

Engineering junior Steve Cifelli, who has class and works in Skirkanich, said his only complaint with the building is that it was not ready at the beginning of the semester.

"The look doesn't detract from the functionality of the building," Cifelli said.

Despite the praise, Skirkanich hasn't blown everyone away.

Ezra Bobo, an Engineering sophomore, said he "didn't see anything particularly special about it."

"They're clearly trying to do something with the outside," he said, "but I don't see it."

The interior design of the building is also confusing, according to Engineering senior Patrick Crutchley.

But "I'll get used to it," he said.

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