Silverman Hall Historic Classrooms

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School | Philadelphia, PA

Designed in 1900 by Cope and Stewardson, Silverman Hall originally housed the entirety of Penn’s Carey Law School, including its library and ornate reading rooms. The reading rooms were eventually converted to classrooms which had been outfitted with fixed radial seating and which suffered from poor acoustics, lighting, heating, and cooling. They had lost much of the grandeur of the original fine plaster detailing.

This project originally stems from a VMA comprehensive facilities plan that had proposed a series of long–term projects. As part of this, we devised a plan to transform the three rooms of Silverman Hall to support 21st century law education, integrate modern teaching technology, improve accessibility, upgrade systems, and encourage student and faculty interaction, all while preserving the rich historic character of the lecture halls. To do so, each of the three rooms was designed to offer different opportunities in regard to capacity, layout, and the types of learning supported.

One classroom was given a generous horseshoe shape and two, built-up tiered floors to encourage discussions. Each seat has direct sightlines to every other seat, as well as fixed microphones to assist in both hearing and recording classes. Room 240B was designed with six levels of tiered seating, which accommodates the more traditional case study-style classroom. Finally, Room 245A was outfitted with tables on castors and stackable chairs to maximize flexibility, allowing the room to serve as both a classroom and breakout space.

Acoustical plaster replaced many of the hard surfaces in the high vaulted room, greatly increasing sound performance. Hidden cove lighting accentuates the 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 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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