The University Of Pennsylvania Music Building

The award-winning Music Building at the University of Pennsylvania was designed by Ann Beha Architects. The project brings together disparate academic resources, revitalises a significant 19th-century landmark, creates new communal spaces for staff and students, and serves as a model for how historic and contemporary design expression can coexist. This project, which is the campus’s first LEED Gold building, demonstrates how preservation, new design, and programme can all work together to create a long-term solution.

The University On Adding Historic Places Inside It

The University of Pennsylvania Music Building / Ann Beha Architects,© David Lamb Photography

The Music Building is on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and is located in the centre of the University of Pennsylvania’s historic campus core. The building, together with the nearby Morgan Building, was designed in 1892 as a dormitory and school for a girl’s orphanage by architects Cope & Stewardson. The building was afterwards turned into University physics labs and expanded with a series of minor expansions, congested the site on busy campus routes.


The Music Department was overburdened and underutilised. Its programmes were degraded acoustically and hidden from view. The university aimed to improve the network of music classrooms by adding new practise rooms, instructional spaces, faculty offices for tutorials and composition, and collaborative spaces for teachers, students, and performers. To support teaching, research, and student life, the Department needed major modifications to its old structure and new facilities. The Department wanted all students to feel accepted in music programmes, ensembles, and classes on a campus with many engineering and scientific majors.

Research And Development Going Into The Project

The University of Pennsylvania Music Building / Ann Beha Architects,© David Lamb Photography

The research for this project began with a detailed examination of the historic structure, its history, original design, and setting. Rebuilding original windows, cleaning and repairing beautiful brick, terra cotta, and bluestone masonry, and restoring ornamental wood roof brackets and overhangs were all part of the restoration. To accommodate administrative and faculty offices, the interior was rebuilt and enhanced structurally, mechanically, and acoustically. The original façade design was meticulously analysed in order to develop a design strategy for the expansion. The extension is intentionally more visible and welcoming because the University and Design Team desired a place where music could be seen as well as heard.


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