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Drexel Breaks Ground on Korman Center Expansion and Redesign of Surrounding Public Space

6/14/2016 9:39:27 AM

Photo of ceremonial groundbreaking for Korman Center addition

Drexel University broke ground on an expansion of the Korman Center, a 1958 building at the heart of Drexel’s campus that has served as a University landmark for decades. An $8 million gift from the Hyman Korman Family Foundation, paired with another $8 million from the University, will make the Korman makeover possible. The project will also create a classic campus green in the open space in front of and around the Korman Center, a popular student hangout known as the “Quad.”

Internationally recognized firm Gluckman Tang Architects has designed the building expansion that will open up the brick and stone building and bring it up-to-date with the newest buildings that surround it. Andropogon Associates, known for its commitment to ecological landscape design, has designed the open green space that will be renamed the Korman Quadrangle.

“We are incredibly excited to move forward with a new vision for the Korman Center that will transform the center of our campus and make it a wonderful gathering space for all,” said Drexel President John A. Fry. “The combined building and public space transformation will elevate the Korman Center while at the same time create the Korman Quadrangle.”

The Korman Center, located between Market and Chestnut streets and between 32nd and 33rd streets, gained its current name in 1977 when the building was dedicated in honor of alumnus, Max W. Korman ’29 and his brother, alumnus and trustee Samuel J. Korman ’34. The renovation will give the Korman Center, already the home of state-of-the-art classrooms, a new look and comfortable lounges that will enhance the link between learning and high-tech connectivity. The project will include 9,000 square feet of common space in its interior and transform the public space adjoining the Korman Center to dramatically improve the campus atmosphere and spotlight the renamed Korman Quadrangle as a great public gathering space at Drexel.

“This project presents an opportunity to engage and enhance the heart of the Drexel campus,” said Dana Tang, partner at Gluckman Tang Architects. “Our design aspires to give new life to the public face of the Korman Center by projecting openness and transparency and creating dynamic, day-lit interior spaces that connect with an active front porch on the Korman Quad.”

A cantilevered terra cotta screen will give the Korman Center a new, modern identity, creating a “front porch” that will engage the adjacent Korman Quad and act as an outdoor living room for students. The screen, held 15 feet off the face of the building, will also protect the interior from solar heat gain. Behind the screen, a new two-story glazed wall will be a welcome contrast to the former dark, mostly solid façade, creating continuity between outside and inside.

Upon entering the building, a double-height lobby space will offer expansive views of the Quad outside, connecting the indoor areas with outdoor movement and activities. Lounges on the first floor will be complemented by study spaces on the second floor that will overlook the double-height space and the “front porch” below. Private meeting rooms for student activities will be housed in fritted-glass boxes on the second floor.

A neutral palette of materials and finishes will complement a colorful and patterned range of interior furnishings. Floor finishes will transition from concrete pavers at the front porch to terrazzo on the first floor and sheet vinyl on the second floor, all in a similar speckled grey, creating continuity. A continuous wood ceiling will transform into the guardrail of the second floor and fold down the back wall of the space.

“A reimagined Korman Quadrangle will become the new center of campus and will bring the woods back to Woodland Walk,” said José Almiñana, principal at Andropogon Associates. “This new landscape will unify this section of campus by strengthening its linkage with Chestnut Street, Market Street and the recently completed Perelman Plaza.”

Large canopy trees will be installed to frame a substantially larger “shade lawn” area with multiple seating opportunities. New walkways will connect the buildings fronting the Quad, making this area more user-friendly and appealing, as a gathering place for students, faculty, visitors and neighbors.

The materials from the adjacent Perelman Plaza project will extend into the Korman Quad, unifying the overall “block” bounded by 33rd Street to the west, 32nd Street to the east, Market Street to the north and Chestnut Street to the south. These materials will include porous unit pavers, custom-designed granite walls and seating elements, and a rich palette of native plantings.

The Korman Quad will provide a variety of opportunities for social interaction and outdoor classroom spaces, all while enhancing the learning experience of the university community, creating a uniquely memorable public space and establishing a new identity for the Drexel University campus.

Construction is expected to be completed in fall 2017.