Penn Dental Medicine (PDM) is among the oldest university-affiliated dental institutions in the nation, founded at the University of Pennsylvania in 1878. In 1897, Thomas W. Evans, a dentist and Philadelphia native, bequeathed his estate to UPenn to create and maintain a dental school that would be “second to none.” Evans’ generosity made possible the construction of the Thomas W. Evans Museum and Dental Institute, which opened in 1915. It was the best-equipped dental building in the nation at that time.
Throughout its history, PDM has grown and consistently been at the forefront of dramatic changes that have characterized the profession of dentistry while remaining faithful to its original mission: “to prepare students for qualification for dental practice, to provide graduate training for qualified practitioners, and to create the opportunity and facilities for scientific research in dentistry.”
Following years of limited scope updates, university leadership committed to a holistic three-phase renovation that began in the fall of 2015. The renovation would not only improve program offerings for PDM, it would also create a 3,200-square-foot, 2-story addition whose massing and façade solutions would unify the architectural heritage of the three PDM campus buildings, which consist of the historic Evans building; Robert I. Schattner Center, built in 2002; and Leon Levy Center for Oral Health Research, built in the 1970s. The architecture of the addition also frames Fonseca Gardens, which were created in 2004 to help unify the PDM campus.
COMBINING OLD AND NEW
UPenn and PDM charged EwingCole’s integrated A/E design team with enhancing student and faculty engagement, improving patient experience, creating space for student social interaction, as well as establishing a symbolic and physical connection between clinical and research spaces with an addition, known as the Schattner Pavilion.
Working within the confines of existing campus infrastructure is always a challenge. This project was particularly difficult in that construction efforts were required in three of the school’s existing buildings. The employed strategy took the 10,000-square-foot Main Clinic within the Evans building completely offline (in lieu of multiple phases) and then constructed the Schattner Pavilion and connected it to the Levy center as a second phase.
Taking PDM’s largest clinic space offline for any amount of time was undesirable; however, this approach was deemed the most cost-effective and least disruptive approach to school operations. To accommodate the phasing requirements, the school adjusted class schedules, modified its operations schedule and employed a swing clinic. The contractor also had crews working three shifts to expedite the first phase.
The new, 2-story Schattner Pavilion addition strategically locates a student lounge at Level 1, and a 60-seat patient waiting area at Level 2 improves wayfinding within the complex while encouraging the desired interaction between students, faculty and researchers. Extending the addition beyond the west face of the Robert I. Schattner Center’s existing atrium allows connection to the existing Evans building, including the renovated Main Clinic at the second level of the facility.
To the north at Level 2, the addition inserts itself into the ’70s era Brutalist Levy building and replaces exterior masonry with glazing. A new communicating stair overcomes the 5-foot floor-to-floor differential between the existing Schattner center and Levy building. By enclosing an exterior arcade of the Levy building at Level 1, the project impact is extended. Connections between the new program spaces and the existing facility are magnified. The long, thin addition provides a gracious entry to the Levy research building, an intimate gathering area with views across Fonseca Gardens to the historic Evans building and direct views into working research labs.
The renovation at Level 2 within the historic Evans building focuses on the teaching clinic and the creation of a welcoming, soothing experience for patients. The clinic volume now is anchored by the centrally located Schattner Pavilion addition, which creates an arrival point for patients and hub of operations for students, faculty and staff.
The Main Clinic design creates an environment for 74 individual operatories optimized for teaching techniques via “four-handed dentistry”. The individual operatories are a modularized system developed by the team to allow open sightlines for faculty supervision while maintaining patient privacy and reducing noise levels. In addition, minimizing movement between activities and steps between destinations allows students and faculty more time to focus on clinical instruction and patient care.
The program also provides ancillary support spaces, including a CAD/CAM center, wet laboratories, faculty meeting areas, streamlined instrument management, and centrally located clinical workstations to enhance educational opportunities for students and pedagogical occasions for faculty.
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