The University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees last week signed off on the design for the Pennovation Center, the first major component of the university's planned Pennovation Works project on the east bank of the Schuylkill River in Grays Ferry, just south of the Penn campus.

The Pennovation Center project will repurpose a former DuPont Co. materials research lab into a hub for enterpreneurship, innovation, research and social interaction.

The redesign by HWKN (Hollwich Kushner Architecture) of New York features a dramatic northern facade of angled glass that at once points towards the Penn campus (and the future), offers great views of the campus and Center City skyline, and gives the building's eastern profile the appearance of a ship on a voyage of discovery. In an homage to the many high-tech startup firms founded in garages, a series of garage doors on the ground floor of the eastern facade open directly into studios for use by collaborative research teams. A landscaped plaza at the building's south end will provide informal social space in good weather.

The three-story building will contain co-working space on the lower two floors and the Penn Engineering Field Research Center on the third. The co-working facilities are aimed at both university-affiliated and private-sector startup companies in search of affordable office space. The Pennovation Center will organize and house workshops, programs and professional development resources for its co-working community; a bleacher-like social gathering space on the first floor will also serve as a meeting and event space for these activities.

“The Pennovation Center design creates a truly iconic landmark for Penn’s innovation ecosystem and a dynamic hub for Penn’s culture of innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “The Center is designed to bring the university’s eminent researchers and scientists, along with our extraordinary students, together with the private sector to foster creative exploration, entrepreneurship and new alliances and to generate economic development for the region. We are excited about the discoveries that will come out of the center and about the kind of real societal and economic impact they will have in our region, the country and the world.”

This first phase of the Pennovation Works project has a budget of $37.5 million, which includes landscaping, infrastructure and signage work in addition to refashioning the former DuPont Marshall Laboratory. In addition to HWKN, the team that worked on this initial phase includes architect of record KSS Architects, landscape architect Land Collective and consultants Bruce Mau Design.

The Engineering Field Research Lab is slated to open in the late fall of 2015. The rest of the center and the first phase of the site improvements are scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2016.