Architectural History

Since it was founded, the University of Pennsylvania has adapted to reflect the values of the community that has supported it, charting a course between innovation and convention. These changes are evident in the architecture and character of the three campuses that have been its home. From Franklin's adaptation of a non-sectarian chapel as the institution's first quarters to Frank Furness's innovative University Library and Louis Kahn's momentous Richards Medical Research Laboratory, Penn's buildings represent the evolving intentions of the University's leaders.

Houston Hall

The original design concept for Houston Hall was the result of a contest the Trustees put to recent graduates of the University of Pennsylvania's Architecture Program in 1893. The final design was a combination of designs from two winners, William C. Hays and Milton Bennett Medary Jr. The Hall originally contained a bowling alley, swimming pool, music room, gymnasium, theater, a billiards room and reception areas. The Hall underwent renovations in 1936 and 2000. Houston Hall now contains a cafeteria along with other eating establishments, study rooms, and auditoriums along with numerous meeting rooms and offices.

Claudia Cohen Hall

Originally built for the medical school, Claudia Cohen Hall was appropriately named Medical Hall, was later changed to Logan Hall, and in 2008 became Claudia Cohen Hall in honor or Penn alumna and journalist Claudia Cohen. The building was originally used as the Wharton School, then the School of Arts & Sciences and now holds the Dean of College, Dean of Freshman, and a number of academic advising services for different departments. The building is also a part of Penn's historic district.

Irvine Auditorium

A beautiful inspiration from 1920s Gothic Revival architecture, Irvine Auditorium holds the University's most impressive performance spaces. The Great Hall is decorated with symbols that depict the philosophical history of the University. The Great Hall is also home to Philadelphia's musically famous 11,000-pipe Curtis Organ.

Iron Gate Theater

Known for its large ornamental gate at the main entrance, the Iron Gate Theater is a registered national historic landmark. It contains oak paneling, stain glassed windows, carved angels, and detailed masonry. The building also houses the Tabernacle Church, and can be used for large performances with its large dressing rooms. The building was renovated in 1998 to provide additional rehearsal space.

Wynn Commons

Wynn Commons architecturally joins the other four buildings of the Perelman Quadrangle through a series of staircases, ramps and bordering walls, which also serve as seating areas. Wynn Commons is nestled in the center of campus, becoming a main artery on campus for both formal and informal gatherings. A raised Penn seal is found at the east side of the Quad, making it a focal point for all events.