Full Renovation of Penn’s Hill College House on Track for Fall 2017 Occupancy

The University of Pennsylvania’s Hill House at 3333 Walnut St. has annually been home to 500 mostly first-year residents. This academic year, however, its iconic “drawbridge” is blocked off, and its halls and rooms are void of student life.

The 56-year old architectural landmark, designed by famed Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen as a “women’s dormitory” and now home to both men and women, is getting a full renovation. Each day a team of about 150 contractors, architects, planners and other specialists are working over two shifts from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. and 3-11 p.m., to keep on track to complete the $80 million 15-month renovation of the five-story, 195,000 square foot brick residence before next August.

The plan includes program improvements for student rooms, bathrooms, common areas, central dining and kitchen facilities. New furniture, finishes and lighting will be fitted; and a new elevator and lift will provide accessibility compliance. Overall building systems and sustainability improvements will include window restoration, perimeter wall insulation, a new roof and for the first time in the building’s history, installation of air conditioning throughout. 

​​​​​​​“The schedule is aggressive,” says Anne Papageorge, vice president of Facilities and Real Estate Services. “There is a lot to do given the scope and scale of the project. The full renovation, inside and out, involves all new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, restoring more than 400 windows, replacing the interior atrium glass walls with insulated glazing, expanding the dining facility by 50 percent, adding energy efficient LED lighting in the center atrium, and all new furniture throughout.” 

Outside, the entry bridge and its support piers will be rebuilt, along with new landscaping and a new pedestrian walkway leading to Women’s Walk. 

“The landscape design by Dan Kiley reimagined by Olin will have a climate-hardy landscape including Persian Ivy and 36 Kentucky Coffee trees,” says University Architect David Hollenberg.

“The renovation of Hill House in unison with the completion this fall of New College House gives a nod to the original master plan made in 1960, which called for two buildings, college residences, on the block,” Hollenberg says. “Both New College House and Hill House share Saarinen’s vision for communal living, with multiple public spaces at various scales and small more private bedroom spaces.” 

​​​​​​​The building’s great central atrium is the largest of the collection of public spaces, which also includes a study center, six group study rooms, multiple floor lounges, two terraces, an exercise room, a project innovation room and music practice rooms. The original floor plan, which is largely being retained, includes smaller bedrooms nested around these varied public spaces. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​When the construction wraps up in July, the final finishes will be in place. The interior design includes reintroducing a colorful palette with fabrics, furniture and finishes responsive to the building’s mid-century modern aesthetic. 

The project will be ready for the building to reopen to residents in August.

Hill House Renovation