Academic Hospitality


Courtesy DIGSAU

“The Study is a meeting of the minds,” said Jeff Goldstein, principal of Philadelphia-based DIGSAU Architects. His firm is designing a new type of hotel geared toward academic guests called The Study at University City. Sited at 33rd and Chestnut streets, between the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, developer Paul McGowan of Hospitality 3 intends the hotel concept to capitalize on the dynamic academic environment of Philly’s University City. “The idea is to bring the culture of the university into the hotel environment,” said Goldstein. “McGowan wants to bring that atmosphere into the guest experience.” A previous hotel in New Haven, The Study at Yale, “was putting theory to practice, and they’ve been very successful so far.” Goldstein said the 10-story hotel “blurs the boundary of when you’re on campus and when you’re off.”


That experience is organized around what DIGSAU is calling “The Living Room,” a riff on an academic commons that serves as the hotel’s lobby. “The Living Room is the main public space in the hotel,” said Goldstein. “It’s more than a lobby. It’s a place to bump into people—like a library but more conducive to conversing.” The Living Room offers more than a nod to the surrounding academic atmosphere. Its bookshelves will be filled with books written by local professors and published by Penn and Drexel.

The Study takes its relationship to the surrounding urban fabric seriously, recognizing its location on a pedestrian crossroads. “The activity of Woodland Walk is something that we tried to tap into,” said Goldstein. “We oriented the building to respond to it—a small gesture but an important one.” Woodland Walk once connected to the city’s train station, and was subsequently converted to a pedestrian corridor cutting diagonally through Philadelphia’s rigid grid and serving as a major spine of Penn’s campus.


The 145,000-square-foot hotel is divided into three volumes. On the ground level, retail and front of house operations are clad in textured black granite with wood-mullioned window systems. A corner restaurant with a white brick entry spills out onto the sidewalk along Chestnut Street. “Transparency is key,” said Goldstein. “Wood on the interior of the restaurant is meant to be viewed from the outside.” This is intended to create a relationship between interior and exterior spaces. Above, a glass-clad floor containing conference space and ballrooms is set back behind two terraces to differentiate the podium from the 212 guest rooms above. A variegated facade wraps the guest rooms with a variety of window shapes each set at varying planes—flush, inset, and protruding. The volume is clad in iron spot dark brick to contrast with the limestone and light brick prevalent at Drexel and the red brick common on Penn’s campus. Brick corbels protrude from the building surface to create another layer of depth and shadow.

Site plan (left). Facade detail showing the three window types set in prefabricated panels (right).
Courtesy Bing Maps; DIGSAU

Goldstein said the facade will be prefabricated offsite while construction of the hotel is underway, speeding the construction process. “The panelized precast concrete wall system includes the window units with the exterior brick bonded to the panel.” The overall effect forms a patchwork expressed on the interior and exterior that gives each guest room a character of its own.

The building has been designed to Philadelphia’s rigid stormwater management guidelines. It features a blue roof that can handle a 100-year storm event, and smaller green roofs on lower floors. These green technologies catch and store rainwater, then slowly release it into the city’s sewer.

Groundbreaking is set for the fall of 2014 with a completion target of spring 2016.

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