Pender Labs, Moore School of Electrical Engineering, University of Pennsylvania

On the University of Pennsylvania's venerable, brown-hued campus, a small new laboratory-classroom structure sets a thoughtful example in the art of putting buildings together—and relating them to others. The new wing of the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, by Architects Geddes, Brecher & Cunningham, is an unusually strong, well-knit composition, much more so than its traditional neighbors... Inside and out, the building shows a rough honesty of approach. Each structural part comes together with its neighbor, unconcealed and largely unblurred, in an attempt to reveal each part and the function it performs. The handsomeness of the building derives not from sleek machine finishes, but from sturdy proportions and rhythms of structure, and simple, natural colors. As architect Louis Kahn has said, architecture “starts at the joint.” This building makes a good start indeed. - Ogden Tanner, Architectural Forum, 1959

Pender Labs, Moore School of Electrical Engineering, University of Pennsylvania.

Photo Credit: Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Lawrence Williams Inc. Collection, Local ID#:77133-A

Interior Perspective

David Brownlee: I like the idea – in general – regardless of what you find out about this specific question – finding out more about the interactions of these people in this period of time is bound to be darned interesting. Because there are lots of things going on – not just between Venturi and Kahn. And it is a good piece of history – it was an exciting time.

SR: You are echoing what Bill has been suggesting here, suggesting that the problem is better framed as being part of a larger dynamic, a larger series of interactions.

David Brownlee: Yes. I have heard it said, for instance, that Bob Geddes was really the one who led the way toward the sort of straightforward directness, the toughness of the Philadelphia School. Penn just tore down a lovely little building that embodied that – the Pender Laboratory.


  • View PDFThe Importance of Good Connections

    Tanner, Ogden, Architectural Forum, March 1959, pp. 94-99.

  • View PDFThe Philadelphia School of Architecture: Harold Pender Laboratory 1958-2003

    Geddes, Robert, The Philadelphia Architect, September 2003.