Monday, July 18, 2005

A quick spin through new PSU architecture

Since I'm somewhat obsessed with architecture, part of any return trip to Penn State for me is marked by checking out how the campus has changed. And at a university with a building plan as aggressive as PSU's, there's usually some interesting things to see. For a complete rundown on what's new and what's coming, you can check out OPP's site. But here's some of what I noticed:

McAllister Building has been gutted and renovated, kicking out the Penn State post office in the process. The trees in the Peace Garden (Class of 1997 Senior Gift) across from McAllister are coming in nicely, and no longer reveal how recently they were planted (2000).

One of the nicest new additions to campus is the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture building, located between the Palmer Museum of Art and North Halls. It's nearly complete, and the doors were open this weekend, so I got a quick peek inside. The four-story building has a very open floor plan, with asymmetrical connections up and down among the floors. On the outside, one long facade is dominated by brick, while the other curves a bit and features green weathered copper. That side alludes to the gentle "S" curve of the IST Building, too. I like how it plays off the foliage in the area as well as the brick throughout campus.

In Britain, they refer to many of the universities just a tier below Oxbridge (like Manchester and Bristol) as Red Brick universities. And while the kind of brick that name alludes to is not the brick of Penn State, the name still comes to mind as I see what sort of style they're trying to evoke with the latter-day campus buildings. It's not always beautiful, but at certain points around campus, it really works to bring things together.

Another newly formed spot of architecture and landscape that I really loved is the Shortlidge Mall. The overhead skywalk between the Chemistry and Life Sciences buildings paired with pedestrian pathways that replace the former road there make for a real gem. They create a second grand mall that runs parallel to the mall leading up to Pattee Library. So while that older one is focused around liberal arts buildings, here the sciences have an attractive quad. If you think of the lawns in front of Old Main and the HUB-Robeson Center as akin to malls, the four-fold symmetry works even better.

On the housing front, Eastview Terrace feels like another great success. My sister loves living there, and the classic but modern look of the complex from the outside -- with the view of Mount Nittany in the distance -- is very impressive.

All in all, it kind of makes me wish I were back there.

For a slideshow of some photos, including a few of the completed Class of 2003 Senior Gift murals inside the HUB, check Flickr.

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