It was almost exactly a year ago that we shared the news that the Summit at University City project was finished at 34th & Lancaster, and that businesses were starting to move into the project's numerous retail spaces. As we brought you that worthwhile update, we also discovered some new construction half a block up 34th Street, where a bland two-story building had been demolished and a relatively new foundation was in place. We told you at the time that this would be the site of the new Drexel Hillel, the Raymond G. Perelman Center for Jewish Life. And we were excited by the rendering from Natoma Architects, which showed a handsome red brick building with long and narrow windows in the front. The building, which officially opened last month, looks even better in person than we could have expected.

In the past

Current view of the building

A recent article from Inga Saffron tells us that architect Stanley Saitowitz's design for the building was inspired by the menorah, a candelabra being ritualistically lit by Jewish families around the world this week in celebration of the Hanukkah holiday. Saffron also notes that the building also resembles a bar code, which is apropos considering the technology was developed by a Drexel grad. Whatever the building makes you think of, you have to agree that it's a lovely structure, unlike anything else in Philadelphia. Especially when compared to the uninspired architecture of the much of the student housing development that's sprung up to the north, this building comes off even impressively.

Looking down 34th Street
As Drexel continues to grow toward the rail yards in the coming decades, we'd think they'd be well served to keep these architects in mind for future projects. The contemporary architecture of the Summit building clearly identifies it as a product of 2015, while the design of the new Hillel makes it look like a building that's been there for decades. With a ton of new buildings in the pipeline, some architectural diversity would certainly kick everything up a notch.