The ARCH Revisited

A great triumph of Penn's Making History campaign was the renovation of the ARCH â€" the Arts, Research and Culture House - launched by an anonymous $15 million gift. The vision for this historic building at the heart of campus was a state-of-the-art facility that could serve as a hub for student life while celebrating the unique strengths of the Penn experience- cultural diversity, the arts, and unparalleled research opportunities for undergraduate students.

So, has the new ARCH lived up to expectation? The lines stretching around the wildly successful Mexican café Tortas Frontera say "YES."

"We have exceeded our goals," says William Gipson, Associate Vice Provost for Equity and Access. "What we wanted was space where students felt supported and affirmed, and was an interesting and exciting place to be that had the latest modern technology."

Every day at this crossroads, students gather to study, dine, enjoy art exhibitions, and stage or attend performances. They visit Penn's cultural centers â€" La Casa Latina, MAKUU: The Black Cultural Center or the Pan-Asian American Community House. They connect their passions with opportunities for further research at CURF, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.  Or they simply enjoy one another's company.The renovated space also includes new meeting rooms, high-tech classrooms, a dance studio, as well as inviting lounges and comfortable study spaces. The beautifully restored auditorium serves as a performance venue, dynamic classroom and banquet hall.

About the ARCH Renovation

In early 2014, The University of Pennsylvania completed a $24.5 million renovation of its Arts, Research and Culture House, transforming the historic building into a center for campus life that builds on the cultural diversity of Penn students and offers an intellectual and social experience for the entire University community.

"The completion of the renovated ARCH building marks a new focal point for cultural life on campus," Penn President Amy Gutmann said. "The new ARCH celebrates the best of the building's remarkable history while embracing technology and design to create a state-of-the art hub for campus life.  I'm pleased that this renovated building will support the diverse intellectual and social student experience that distinguishes Penn and adds to our eminence."

The renovation of the ARCH building markred a core achievement of Penn's Making History Campaign. The restoration project was launched with a $15 million anonymous gift announced in 2011 as part the campaign.

The restored ARCH offers a central location on campus for students to gather, study, dine, enjoy art exhibitions and stage or attend performances. It serves as the gateway to the Penn student experience combining research and cultural identity.

The ARCH is home to three cultural resource centers: La Casa Latina, Makuu: The Black Cultural Center and the Pan-Asian American Community House. These student-focused centers share the building with the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, the Tortas Frontera caf� from celebrity chef Rick Bayless, lounges, study spaces and a high-tech multi-use auditorium/classroom.

"We are excited to launch the new ARCH as the crossroads of our community," Provost Vincent Price said. "It brings together two of Penn's highest priorities �- undergraduate research and our cultural centers -� in a vibrant space that places them at the heart of campus life."

As part of the renovation, the ground floor, which houses the cultural resource groups, underwent the most dramatic transformation. This space now allows students to flow and mingle across a new open-plan "living room" with built-in banquette seating and glassed-in suites and high ceilings providing generous light.

On the first floor, visitors can socialize or study in The DiLorenzo Lounge and meeting rooms or on the outdoor terrace. Among the highlights is the caf� featuring locally sourced Mexican-American cuisine operated in partnership with Bon Appetit, Penn's food service provider.

A second-floor auditorium equipped with interactive digital and multi-media capabilities functions as a premier classroom for large lecture courses for as many as 150 students. A flexible seating system in the auditorium enables its transformation into a performance space, banquet hall or venue for talks by scholars.

The University's primary resource for undergraduate research, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, provides research and fellowship advising to some 1,300 students and is home to the Benjamin Franklin Scholars and University Scholars programs. CURF will occupy the second and third floors in modernized spaces, enabling it to expand its program offerings.

Built in 1928 to house the Christian Association, the building was purchased by the University in 1999 and is listed in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. 

The ARCH renovation project was designed by SaylorGregg Architects. Students from the cultural groups participated in the design process, which helped to define the newly imagined spaces that combine communal areas with modern technology. As part of the restoration, the original features of the late Gothic Revival building were carefully preserved and restored. This includes the building's wood wall paneling and grand stairway, four terracotta chimneys, delicate limestone carving and ornamental plasterwork, leaded windows and slate roof.