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June 19, 2023

Penn unveils designs for $75 million performing arts center

The 37,300-square-foot building along Woodland Walk will have two theaters and five rehearsal studios. It will open in 2027

Development Penn
Penn Performing Arts Center Provided Image/Steven Holl Architects

The University of Pennsylvania plans to build a $75 million student performing arts center on Woodland Walk. The building will have two theaters and five rehearsal studios.

The University of Pennsylvania will begin construction next year on its new performing arts center, which Penn officials say will meet rising demand for creative spaces among undergraduate students.

The $75 million, 37,300-square foot building at 33rd Street and Woodland Walk will have spaces for classes, rehearsals and student performances in dance, theater, a cappella and musical ensembles. It is expected to be completed by the winter of 2027, Penn officials said. 

Last week, Penn's Board of Trustees reviewed the design process for the performing arts center, which will sit adjacent to the Lauder and Hill College Houses and be bounded by Jenny Holzer's "125 Years" sculpture celebrating the history of women at Penn.

The building, designed by New York-based Steven Holl Architects, includes a 300-seat theater with a fly tower and orchestra pit, a 125-seat theater for rehearsals and practices, five rehearsal studios, back-of-the-house support spaces and a loading dock. 

Penn Arts Center LobbyProvided Image/Steven Holl Architects

The Student Performing Arts Center on Woodland Walk will include a 300-seat theater, 125-seat studio theater, five practice studios and additional spaces for teaching and back-of-the-house support.

The project is the result of a 2019 study that concluded Penn's undergraduate students needed more performing arts spaces. Penn has more than 70 performing arts groups. The university estimates that 1 in 5 students on campus participates in performing arts and film, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported. 

The initial plans for the project were unveiled in August 2021.

"This exciting project will expand the existing spaces that help Penn's student performing arts scene thrive," Penn President Liz Magill said. "The new Student Performing Arts Center, together with Platt Student Performing Arts House, Houston Hall, Irvine Auditorium, the Annenberg Center, and a consortium of other spaces on campus, will support and amplify arts programming for students across Penn." 

The Student Performing Arts Center joins more than $1 billion in construction projects happening on Penn's campus, including the Stuart Weitzman Theatre, which is slated to open by 2025.