Richards Medical Research Laboratories

, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

Philadelphia, PA

Modernized interior of the Richards Labs
Richards Lab workspaces
Richards Lab workspaces
Richards Lab workspaces
Collaboration spaces
Exterior view of Richards Lab

One of the most important buildings of the second half of the 20th century and a breakthrough design by Louis Kahn, Richards is a designated National Historic Landmark. The complex structure is configured as a group of laboratory towers with a central service tower. Considerable functional shortcomings had made this design icon the target of much venom for over the past fifty years. Our modernization brought the technical requirements of the laboratories into alignment with Kahn’s plan and spatial design, while vastly improving building functionality and energy performance.

After studying the feasibility of renewing and repurposing existing wet biomedical bench research laboratories to dry computational medical research laboratories, we developed Design and Preservation Guidelines to inform our work on this, as well as on subsequent projects. The inaugural phase of the modernization focused on portions of Towers C and D. We integrated new engineering systems, replaced and preserved the existing exterior walls, and introduced chilled-beam cooling, all of which significantly improved energy performance and occupant comfort.

Building Facts

  • 16,000 GSF modernization

  • Center for Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN)

  • Center for Functional Neuroimaging (CfN)

How we can best shepherd the legacy of modernism into a durable and sustainable future raises many issues that are fundamentally changing the way in which preservation professionals approach the rehabilitation of a large segment of the built environment.

No Thermal Break, No Problem: Upgrading Kahn’s Stainless Steel Windows in the Richards Building

In this conference presentation, David Fixler and Matt Chalifoux discuss strategies for making a famously dysfunctional landmark work for science while respecting the original design vision.

Awards & Honors

  1. Preservation Achievement Grand Jury Award

    Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia

  2. Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Award

    Preservation Pennsylvania

  3. Construction Excellence Award, Best Historic Preservation Project

    General Building Contractors Association

  4. Tri-State Architectural Excellence Design Award, Preservation Architecture

    AIA Tri-State (AIA New Jersey, AIA New York State, and AIA Pennsylvania)

  5. Design Merit Award

    AIA Philadelphia

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