Joe’s Café

University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The facilities of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania include Steinberg-Dietrich Hall, the last commissioned building by famed architecture firm McKim, Mead, and White. Joe’s Cafe, a casual dining venue, is located at the base of the building along Woodland Walk, a bustling pedestrian corridor. When Wharton engaged VMA to expand and renovate the cafe, our response had to complement the original building’s severe, stripped-down classicism while creating a contemporary experience and achieving the university’s commitment to sustainability.

The main dining area of the new cafe is gracious, with eighteen-foot-high ceilings and full-height windows that overlook a steel trellis, extending the cafe as a garden pavilion while providing shade for the interior. In addition to accommodating daily use, the layout cleverly turns the cafe into a self-contained area that can host receptions and private events after normal business hours. 

The LEED-CI Gold Certified project was designed to maximize daylight and views and features landscaping composed of native species which are drought tolerant and require little watering. Light sensors save energy by dimming lamps where there is enough ambient light. Thermal temperature is operable to help enhance occupant comfort. The menu, composting, and cleaning methods all also contributed toward the LEED designation. It was the first of its kind on Penn’s campus. 

The scope also included a new, three-story addition that provides offices, conference spaces, a reconfigured reprographics center, a new office suite, public restrooms, a vending area, and two new accessible entries. The important landscape of Woodland Walk, designed in the 1960’s by Andropogon, remains a key feature.

Landscape completed in association with Lager Raabe Skafte Landscape Architects, Inc.


LEED CI Gold Certified


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Size: 9,000 sf
Budget: $3 million


Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape, Sustainability

Joe’s Café

University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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