Stuart Weitzman looks like the University of Penn

The University of Pennsylvania is acquiring a new versatile academic hall which is named, Stuart Weitzman Hall, matching that of the University’s revered design school. Before the school was renamed Penn benefactor and luxury shoe designer Stuart Weitzman in 2019, the school was simply known as PennDesign.

Technically, the newly renamed hall for the Weitzman School of Design is not a new building at all, but an existing historic building on Penn’s leafy West Philadelphia campus, the John Morgan Building. The eight-story Morgan Building is one of nine campus buildings designed by Cope & Stewardson and was originally a dormitory built as part of the Foulke and Long Institute for Orphan Girls. It was acquired by Penn in 1899 and housed the University’s physics department for several decades. Today, it is directly across 34th Street from a few other Weitzman School buildings, the Fisher Fine Arts Library and Meyerson Hall, along with the recently renovated Stuart Weitzman Plaza.

As announced by the University, the Morgan building will be renovated and expanded, obtaining a new wing on the south side in a project led by Philadelphia-based KieranTimberlake. (The company’s Founding partners Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake are both Weitzman alumni and former faculty members at the school. In its new life as Stuart Weitzman Hall, the former Morgan Building will “create an optimal environment for art and design education and research.”

“The Weitzman School has an urgent need for centrally located, state-of-the-art facilities and the Morgan Building provides the ideal solution,” interim Penn President Wendell Pritchett said in a statement. “We are very grateful that Stuart will help to realize that vision. The naming of the building for Stuart honors his continued commitment to the success of Penn students and his extraordinary continued support of the School.”

As described by Penn, the 130-year-old Morgan Hall retains its original architectural elements, particularly on the facade, while the interior will be “completely redesigned” to serve faculty and students in various departments at the Weitzman School. Planned functions include visual arts and design studios, maker spaces, research facilities, classrooms, faculty offices, exhibition spaces, meeting rooms, and more. Although the Morgan building stems from expansion and renovation work as Weitzman Hall, the name Morgan continues to be used in the interior of the building, according to the school.

Referring to the Morgan building as “truly a rough diamond”, Weitzman School Dean Frederick Steiner pointed out that the revitalization of the former orphanage counts as the “most important building expansion project for the School in 55 years.”

“Stuart is seizing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a difference in the daily lives of students and faculty right now, and to enable the School to grow and adapt in the future,” he added.

As for Weitzman, who is a 1963 graduate of Penn’s Wharton School, he praised the University for helping him during his “long and enjoyable career in design,” noting that he was “excited to bring new life to a remarkable 19th-century building in the heart of campus.”

A project timeline has not yet been announced; one will report when further design details of the revamped Morgan building are released.

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