University of Pennsylvania


Stephen A. Levin Building

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

77,0000 sf / 7,150 m2

Architecture, Engineering, Lab Planning, Lighting Design

Chapter Award, Construction Excellence Award - Best Educational Institutional Project, Design Awards

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“This building is a great example of good urban and campus design integrating form and function.  ”

—David Hollenberg, University Architect, University of Pennsylvania


The genesis for the new Stephen A. Levin Building, a hub for neural and behavioral sciences, is the acknowledgement that the study of complex behaviors is a fundamental focus of life sciences in the 21st century. Seeking to create greater integration of the study of genes, the brain and behavior, the University of Pennsylvania desired to bring together their psychology, biology and behavioral sciences programs into a common facility. The University engaged SmithGroupJJR to provide master planning, programming and design for this state-of-the-art integrated sciences building, which acts as an iconic center and connector for a newly-defined life sciences precinct.

By virtue of this site’s location at the convergence of vehicular and pedestrian approaches to the campus, the development was critical to the perception of the University by the adjacent community. Rather than function as a barrier to the neighborhood, the master plan and program links the two, providing a smooth transition between the academic environment and the surrounding community and becoming a destination for students and faculty both inside and out. To fully develop this strategy, the program includes the demolition of existing buildings, the creation of adjacent outdoor spaces, as well as the design for the bold new NBS building.

SmithGroupJJR responded with a logical bar design for the NBS building that abuts an existing lab facility and links to another via an underground tunnel. A below-grade auditorium extends south with a green roof, creating a generous connection to a revered campus botanical garden and allowing for future expansion while also activating a pedestrian plaza. While the labs require a carefully controlled environment, collaborative and circulation areas enjoy a luminous glass volume with an aluminum sunscreen that provides soft, yet expansive, light throughout the day. In addition, the innovative biomorphic sunscreen mitigates glare and heat gain while presenting a dramatic new public face for the University along the busy edge of campus.   

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