These days in University City, there’s construction in every possible direction and for every type of project you can think of, from residential to lab to office. One of the major drivers of all of this action is the University of Pennsylvania, which has been inexorably building and renovating in and around its campus for longer than you’ve probably been alive. Thanks to an article from Penn Today, we now know that a brand-new student performing arts center is coming to the northeastern corner of the campus, just across from the DIGSAU-designed Study at University City.

Coming to the intersection of Woodlands Walk and 33rd St. is the newest addition to the student life options on campus, with a modern performance center from Steven Holl Architects joining the fold. A 300-seat theater will be the main room for the much-needed performance arts space, which will serve the 70 or so student arts groups. Additionally, smaller spaces for other performances and rehearsals will also be a part of this design, which appears as heavy geometric volumes floating over a glowing, glassy base.

A rendering of the future student center from the same spot
Current view looking NE from Woodland Walk
The new performance center will create a striking gateway
Calm, natural vibes in the lobby of the future building

This will surely be exciting for the students who will have a shiny new designated place for performances, though with a timeline for completion in 2027, this building will likely only benefit rising freshman and future super seniors. It’s unlikely that any of these students will remember what was once known as Hill Field, an open space taking up more than half of this city block. The field was greatly reduced in size with the construction of the Lauder College House at 34th & Walnut, and the addition of this performance space will eliminate much of the rest of the open space here.

We should add that this is hardly the only development in the area related to the arts. Just a few blocks west, the Annenberg Center is getting a major reinvention – and not just thanks to the being under the umbrella of Penn Live Arts. This Brutalist structure has been a brick-heavy presence at 37th & Walnut St. for 50 years, but that will be changing soon thanks to a new design from the DLR Group. Plans call to open up the structure, which sits directly next to the already-in-progress Graduate School of Education upgrades taking place immediately next door.

Current look at the Annenberg Center and its front plaza
A conceptual rendering of what's to come, with work commencing in 2025
Already plenty of progress next door
Rendering of the Graduate School of Education

Again, this is just a small sliver of the money that Penn is pumping into their campus. West Philadelphia is growing at a rapid pace, and we are all for it. The vibrancy – from arts to science to engineering and beyond – is making the city west of the Schuylkill more and more exciting. As a town the relies in Eds and Meds for much of its economic vibrancy, we appreciate the continued investments.