Silverman Hall Historic Classrooms

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School | University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School | Philadelphia, PA

Silverman Hall, designed in 1900 by Cope and Stewardson, originally housed the entirety of the University’s Law School. In 2004, Penn Law retained VMA to create a phased campus plan for their existing 305,000 sf of space. Silverman Hall was addressed in a number of phases, the most recent of which included the renovation of three lecture style classrooms.

 The existing rooms had been outfitted with now-outdated fixed radial seating; suffered from poor acoustics, lighting, heating, and cooling; featured outdated audio and visual equipment; and lost much of the grandeur of their original fine plaster detailing. Penn Law sought to transform these rooms into high-performance classrooms that would better support their approach to 21stcentury law education while fully integrating forward-thinking teaching technology; creating flexibility to accommodate different pedagogical models with a single classroom; creating more and better accessible seating options; improving acoustics and sightlines to encourage student and faculty interaction and discussion; and preserving the rich historic character of these spaces.

Each of the three rooms were designed to offer different opportunities in regard to capacity, layout, and the types of classes each supported. Rooms 240A was given a generous horseshoe shape and two built-up tiered floors, which encourage discussions as each seat has direct sightlines to every other seat as well as fixed microphones to assist in both hearing and recording of classes; Room 240B was designed with six levels of tiered seating, which accommodates the more traditional case study-style classroom; and Room 245A was outfitted with tables on castors and stackable chairs to maximize flexibility, allowing this room to serve as both a classroom as well as a breakout space for conferences and events.

Acoustical plaster replaced many of the hard surfaces in the high vaulted room, greatly increasing the acoustical performance of the classrooms. Hidden cove lighting highlights the new panels as well as the original repaired plaster ornament that runs the perimeter of the vaulted ceilings.

 All the rooms were provided with a freestanding steel assembly showcasing a large LED array, which are not affected by light glare. This steel assembly was designed to leave the original plaster detailing as intact as possible, knowing that even the best technology will eventually need to be removed and replaced.


The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design/The European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, American Architecture Award, 2021
Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, Grand Jury Award, 2021
IIDA PA/NJ/DE Chapter, Best in Education/Institutional <30,000sf, 2020
AIA Philadelphia Chapter Honor Award, Historic Preservation/Adaptive Reuse, 2020
AIA Pennsylvania Chapter Design Award Finalist, Historic Preservation, 2020


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Architecture, Interior Design, Historical Preservation, Planning

Silverman Hall Historic Classrooms

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School | Philadelphia, PA

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