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Drexel Begins Construction of the URBN Center

The Future Home of the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design

Drexel University has begun renovation of the iconic Robert Venturi building, perhaps the best example of his celebrated "decorated shed," at 35th and Market Streets. The Drexel Board of Trustees in its September meeting approved the financing package for construction of the URBN Center, which will serve as the new home for the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.

The fast-track construction will have the building ready for use by the 2012-2013 academic year.  The architectural firm MS&R has been retained to adapt the 130,000 square-foot former Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) office building at 35th and Market Streets and the 13,000-square-foot former daycare center at 34th and Filbert Streets—designed by Bower, Lewis & Thrower Architects—to house Westphal College's design programs. Both properties are sited on over 3 acres of land immediately adjoining the Drexel University City Main Campus to the west on Market Street. The buildings were acquired through a $25 million anonymous gift by a non-alumnus in 2008. Turner Construction is the contractor for the project.

"I look forward to seeing the transformation of the URBN Center's space into a vibrant creative learning environment, one that will nurture the talent and ambition of Westphal College's faculty and students," said Drexel University President John A. Fry. "This renovation will update the spatial, functional, and expressive character of the facility to meet the needs of modern academics, while carefully preserving the building's historical significance to modern architecture."

Upon its completion, the URBN Center will open to a large main lobby with a prominent digital media screen, displays of student work, lounges and informal meeting areas, an all-college Hybrid Making Studio—offering student services from across Westphal's disciplines to clients—and a café. The main lobby will also spotlight the Music Industry and Design & Merchandising (D&M) programs.  MAD Dragon Enterprises, Drexel's student-run record label, will gain office, operations, and seminar space accessible from the main lobby, and D&M students will have a highly-visible storefront display window.

After decades of storage diaspora, Drexel's Historic Costume Collection will be housed in ideal facilities for conservation, preservation, instruction, storage, and display.

The second floor and the second mezzanine will feature a large motion capture studio, compositing lab, gaming research facility, and multiple high-end computer studios for animation, modeling, and interactive design. The new and expanding Product Design program's spaces will include a model-making/prototyping shop complete with tools and space to professionally create anything innovative students would want to create.

The third floor of the URBN Center will not only offer undergraduate and graduate Fashion Design programs expanded reconfigurable studio space, sewing labs, and a CAD design studio, it will also feature a fabric dying and printing studio, a state-of-the-art fashion research lab, a SHIMA-SEIKI computerized knit prototyping studio, and a runway for class critiques and informal fashion shows. This will also be the new location of the Charles Evans Fashion Library. With the move of Westphal's programs in Architecture and Interiors to the URBN Center, the design studios, drawing studio, CAD labs, printing and plotting facilities, resource library, and model making shop will all be located together. Graphic Design students and faculty will enjoy 24-hour access to expanded and upgraded facilities for their computer studios and a large open lab.

The URBN Center Annex, located at 34th and Filbert Streets, will be the home of Westphal College's public venues including a greatly expanded Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, a black box theater, and a 125-seat screening room intended to have the best sound and projection in Philadelphia. Woven throughout the entire URBN Center will be faculty offices, conference and seminar rooms, extensive pin-up space for critique and sharing of student work, student lounges, and flexible "opportunity spaces."

You can view progress of the renovation on the URBN Center construction blog.

Picture Gallery

Click images to enlarge.

Rendering of the URBN Center Exterior Rendering of the URBN Center Lower Level Rendering of the URBN Center Middle Level Rendering of the URBN Center Upper Level Rendering of the URBN Center Upper Level

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