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Lauder College House

University of Pennsylvania

Designing Lauder College House in brick was a given. In brick-heavy Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania is a brick-heavy campus. “It was important to Penn that the students feel connected to the university as a whole,” says David Murray, principal of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ). “Brick as a material—the scale, the color, the texture—is really tied into Penn’s campus.” Penn’s noteworthy brick buildings include the 1891 Fisher Fine Arts Library, designed by Frank Furness (1839–1912), and the 1960 Richards Medical Research Laboratories by Louis Kahn (1901–1974) of “you say to brick” fame. Just across the quad from Lauder College House, the 1960 Hill College House by Eero Saarinen (1910–1961)—with its deep-set, brick-framed windows—commands additional attention. So how could BCJ use brick to design a new college house that is noteworthy and, more importantly, welcoming?

It's pretty nice to do something that everybody's proud of—that isn't boilerplate.


It was essential that this particular brick expression be not only welcoming but also affordable. The architects wanted to make a unique form that did not require rethinking wall assembly, but rather would allow the building to have a standard basic geometry. They consulted with masons and Glen-Gery Corporation and came up with a shape design for the custom-made brick that could be tooled easily. During the design process, BCJ built a mock-up of the wall to test it. While the firm often builds mock-ups as part of their construction process, it did so here at an earlier stage than usual. Dana Reed, senior associate of BCJ, says, “This mock-up helped everyone be confident that this could be built with a high quality and an efficiency of labor that made sense for the project.”

BCJ’s hands-on attention to Lauder College House makes good sense for a Philadelphia project. “Philadelphia is a town of people who build things and make things,” says Reed. “It’s pretty nice to do something that everybody’s proud of—that isn’t boilerplate.” She notes that the atypical brick construction was at first a bit difficult for the masons, but once they understood the logic of the staggered brick, they were very proud of it. Reed recalls a particular moment with a mason, who asked that she pass along comments to university officials. “Please just tell them—thank you so much for building the building out of real brick,” he said. “We don’t take it for granted.” ▪

Project Details

Owner University of Pennsylvania
Architectural Firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Glen-Gery, Molded Collection

52-DD, 53-DD Blend


198,000 GSF




Brick in Architecture Gold Award