At 3803 Locust Walk, Penn is perhaps halfway through the process of constructing the new Perry World House.

Current view

This building will open in the spring of 2016, and will be "an interdisciplinary research center designed to translate academic work into innovative approaches to global challenges." Platitudes aside, it will host events to increase international engagement, encourage research regarding international issues, and help to transmit that research to the rest of the world. There will be office space too. For students whose studies have an international focus, this place will basically be a paradise. And if any of those same students have some architectural interest, the building will be doubly awesome.

Project rendering

Here's a look at this site in 1970, since we weren't smart enough to snag a picture of it before the construction started.

The view in 1970

As you can see, the Perry World House, designed by 1100 Architect, includes a part of the structure that stood here previously. According to a great interview by Hidden City, the building was designed by architect Samuel Sloan and dates back to the 1850s. A fraternity had been using the building since the 1950s, so it's actually somewhat amazing that any part of the building was salvageable after decades of frat-boy living. As you can see in the contrasting photo and drawing, the eastern part of the home was demolished and the western section has been integrated into the new building. Hidden City calls it hybrid preservation, a concept we can certainly get behind.

View from 38th Street

In 2013, Penn attempted to go with a similar idea at 40th & Pine when the community objected to their initial plans to demolish the Levy-Leas House. But the community remained opposed to a plan to surround the old mansion with student housing and this eventually resulted in the demolition of the attractive old building. In that situation, both the neighbors and Penn came out looking pretty bad. In the case of the upcoming Perry World House, we're pleased to praise Penn's efforts to continue to move their campus forward while maintaining a connection to the past.