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Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Terracotta Application and Process at New College House

The project was recently recognized by Ludowici / Terreal North America in its annual Project of the Year awards.

Honored to design the University of Pennsylvania’s second purpose-built college house on its western gateway to campus, we sought a building material that resonated with Penn’s brick legacy, but would also produce a faster, lighter, and energy efficient façade to greet West Philadelphia neighbors. Terracotta shingle is an earthy material that recalls not just Philadelphia’s brick vernacular but also the terracotta language of Frank Furness’s beloved Fine Arts Library, while offering a sense of human scale to campus.

In addition to aesthetic considerations, using an envelope material that is comparatively lighter than brick provided an opportunity to construct the building’s superstructure and foundation systems more quickly. Terracotta shingles were installed on 618 prefabricated exterior wall panels within controlled factory conditions – a significant benefit at the onset of the pandemic. The shingle system allowed for off-site fabrication and affordable transportation to the site, as well as use of a lighter, faster structural system. Design Assist envelope partnerships with the off-site wall panel manufacturer and window/curtain wall subcontractors helped to optimize the design process. These efficiencies allowed the design team to achieve an ambitious schedule while improving quality control, helping the project complete on time and on budget despite the pandemic. Read more below.