PhilaU breaks ground on Design, Engineering and Commerce building

Philadelphia University’s future College of Design, Engineering and Commerce will have its own academic building come 2013.

School officials ceremoniously broke ground Friday on a four-story, $20 million facility that will sit at the heart of the private institution’s campus in East Falls.

“Metaphorically, we break ground for a new building, but we also are breaking ground on a new way to do education,” said Stephen Spinelli Jr., the University’s president, during the morning event.

“We believe that the school of Design, Engineering and Commerce now establishes us as the university, the example of professional university education,” he added.

The new program, set to formally kickoff in September, will feature a curriculum that promotes collaboration among students from its namesake majors. It’s an effort to both simulate real world work flow and stimulate innovation.

The high-tech, 38,500 square-foot structure will house nine classrooms, four smaller rooms for small group instruction and a two-story forum space for exhibits, presentations and large lectures.

That interior, however, will be very adjustable and will feature removable walls and movable furniture, allowing teachers and students to have or create the spaces they want based on the activity at hand.

“There are not only these very flexible studio classroom spaces, but also spaces to work in shops, make prototypes and gather in big groups,” said Janette Blackburn, a principal at Shepley Bulfinch Richardson & Abbott, the Boston-based architecture firm behind the building’s design.

The building, to be built to LEED standards, will be financed through an even split of cash and money raised from bonds.

Preliminary construction will begin in the next couple of weeks. The new building is scheduled to be completed in January 2013 for the start of that year’s spring semester.

In the meantime, the University has renovated part of The Design Center to serve as a home for the college’s curriculum, parts of which have already been “beta-tested”.

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