7 May 2009
Penn State Dickinson School of Law
Penn State's Dickinson School of Law celebrates the opening of its new 114,000-square-foot Lewis Katz Building. Richard Olcott of Polshek Partnership Architects has designed a signature work to reflect the school's progressive educational program as it celebrates its 175th Anniversary
photos © Andrew Burdick / Polshek Partnership Architects
Penn State's Dickinson School of Law marked its 175th anniversary with the opening of its new 114,000-square-foot Lewis Katz Building.
The Dickinson School of Law, which merged with Penn State in 2000, operates as an ABA-accredited unified two-location law school from University Park and Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Asked to create a unified identity across these two locations, Richard Olcott of Polshek Partnership Architects has designed a building that responds to the law school's desire to create an inspired and engaging center for legal education.
The focal point of the Lewis Katz Building is its glass-enclosed H. Laddie Montague Jr. Law Library with a volume capacity of 100,000 and seating for 294 students. The architecture draws from the idea that the law library is the theoretical and physical heart of the legal educational experience. As the center in which students spend much of their time, the library is conceived as a floating element, sheltered from the rest of the school's program beneath. The ground plane flows unimpeded, linking interior and exterior space to foster the feeling of openness and accessibility emblematic of the school's goals.
"The sinuous building form is a direct response to the presence of the surrounding mountains and geology of the valley," says Olcott. "The curving library is clad in glass to create a constantly changing backdrop of reflected sunlight throughout the day and a beacon of light at night."
Within, the library is conceived as a continuous looping circulation system, providing several different types of study environments. Each end of the sinuous form is directed at a specific landscape, one near and one far: the periodicals room faces the adjacent arboretum, and the reading room is focused on the more distant Mount Nittany across the valley.
photo © Matt Gardner
Beneath this floating aerial form is its counterpart, an earthbound series of volumes clad in local sandstone that contain the classrooms, auditorium and courtroom. These elements surround a broad commons area that opens to the landscape and follows its stepping contours, directly connecting the school's interior programs to the surrounding campus.
Reflecting the progressive identity and goals of Penn State's Dickinson School of Law, the Lewis Katz Building was constructed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification requirements, utilizing numerous sustainable initiatives and local and recycled materials throughout its design. From its continuous planted green roof to its reintroduction of pervious surfaces on what was a massive parking lot, the building helps reduce the amount of rainwater runoff generated by the site. To reduce its energy consumption, the building maximizes its use of natural day lighting in public spaces as its mechanical systems allow for operable windows and individual climate control in most of its individual offices.
Additional building features include the 250-seat Greg Sutliff Auditorium; a courtroom equipped with the latest in trial technology; four 75-person classrooms; several intimate seminar rooms; legal clinic and student organizations suites; and outdoor terraces and reading gardens. As Marie Reilly, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law, so aptly states, "Nearly every inch of the Lewis Katz Building is designed to draw students and faculty together in a close community in which students develop the analytical, communication and interpersonal skills the legal profession requires."
photos © Andrew Burdick / Polshek Partnership Architects
"The Lewis Katz Building has far exceeded my expectations," said third-year Penn State law student Meghan Cashman. "I knew I was getting a fantastic legal education since my first year, but it is truly rewarding to finish in this atmosphere."
Olcott is also the lead designer for the law school's new and renovated facility in Carlisle. Construction of that facility will be completed later this year.
Lewis Katz Building - Design Team
Design Partner: Richard Olcott
Management Partner: Timothy Hartung
Project Manager: Kevin McClurkan
Project Designers: Kate Mann, Andrew Burdick
Project Architects: Felicia Berger, Gregory Clawson
Project Team: Charmian Place, Sean Baumes, Darla Elsbernd, Kyo-Young Jin, Douglas Kawano, Kathleen Kulpa, Anthony Buccellato, Nicholas Hunt, Youngsun Ko, Claudia Misi, David Ooyevaar, Yekta Pakdaman-Hamedani, Maragret Reed (Gilbane), Ted Wagner, Henry Weintraub
ABOUT POLSHEK PARTNERSHIP ARCHITECTS
Known for powerful building designs for cultural, educational, scientific and not-for-profit institutions, Polshek Partnership Architects is a 150-person firm based in New York City. Projects have been published internationally and recognized with numerous awards for design excellence and for their important contributions to the life of their cities and campus precincts. The firm's research-based design process sponsors the creation of signature building designs that are expressive of an institution's philosophy and vision and address each project's unique programmatic, technical, aesthetic and environmental issues. For more information, visit www.polshek.com.
ABOUT THE DICKINSON SCHOOL OF LAW
Founded by Judge John Reed in 1834, the Dickinson School of Law is the oldest law school in Pennsylvania and the fifth oldest in the nation. Over the course of its distinguished 175-year history, its graduates have included three U.S. senators, five governors, the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the first woman to serve as chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, among others. Completing a merger with Penn State in 2000, the law school now operates from University Park and Carlisle as the only ABA-approved unified two-location law school and is successfully recruiting leading faculty scholars and the most highly qualified and diverse student body in the school's history. For more information, visit www.law.psu.edu.
Lewis Katz Building information from Polshek Partnership Architects 070509
Polshek Partnership - now Ennead Architects