This historic, 1838 Penn State building has been beautifully restored, renovated, repurposed and expanded for a new life

If you’ve read How Buildings Learn or The Restoration Economy, you know there are many ways to keep an old building “alive.”

Many times, expansion is necessary in order to maintain functionality.

So, the first question designers ask the client is normally whether they want the expansion to mimic the original structure, contrast with it, or harmonize with it (or harmoniously contrast with it).

The Pennsylvania State University campus in Erie County is known as Penn State Behrend.

The oldest brick structure in the area, built in 1838, is the Federal House.

It has now been gracefully restored, renovated, repurposed and expanded by the architects at GBBN.

With a gentle touch, the newest addition to campus preserves the past and prepares for the future.

A light and spacious modern barn slips into the steeply graded site—linking to the restored Federal House by way of an elegant, glass bridge—to preserve and elevate the historically significant building.

At the same time, the building provides a new home—–offices, classrooms, and event space—–for the Susan Hirt Hagen Center for Community Outreach, Research, and Evaluation (CORE).

CORE is an effort by Penn State Behrend’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

In a county where one in three children under the age of five live in poverty (in the city of Erie, PA it’s nearly half), CORE fosters positive youth development and a culture of hope through mentoring and education programs.

Creating a space of inclusion and security, the design communicates to its young visitors that they are valued.

While the barn’s large, glass walls draw a compelling contrast to the solidity of the Federal House, the dark gray zinc panels of its roof echo the gabled roof of the historic building.

The building is softened by a warm wood wrap that marks its entrance, thus welcoming its visitors.

So, whether they’re headed to mentoring sessions in the small classrooms on the second floor or the 80-person event space just inside the entrance, they know that this space is for them.

All photos are by Brad Feinknopf.

See GBBN website.

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