William Penn Charter School

The Graham Athletics & Wellness Center

Philadelphia, PA

William Penn Charter School, the oldest Quaker school in the country, strives to create a learning environment where arts and athletics flourish side by side with scholastic achievement in support of their vision of “educating students to live lives that make a difference.” The wellness and athletics programs at Penn Charter are woven into the fabric of the institution, providing an opportunity for every student to participate. To accommodate over 900 students, Penn Charter needed to build a facility to support one of the most extensive athletic programs of Pennsylvania Independent Schools as well as serve the needs of the broader student population, including K-12 physical education. As the most recent project of a multi-phase campus master plan, the Graham Athletic and Wellness Center is strategically positioned at the crossroads of the athletic and academic areas, and helps to realize the larger master plan goals of creating a pedestrian-friendly campus core free of vehicular traffic. The exterior expression of the new facility is a contemporary but contextual deconstruction of the austere colonial revival architecture prevalent on the campus, originally established in 1925, which features regimented facades, schist stonework, and white trim. The interior spaces, with clear lines of sight through to campus, and washed in daylight, evoke the values of a Quaker education: simplicity, transparency, and community. EwingCole worked closely with the institution to program and plan the new facility, focusing on what students need to thrive and make a difference in the 21st Century. The Center accommodates multiple wellness programs in addition to various recreational and competitive athletic programs. Two competition-level basketball courts, four practice cross courts, recreation and training facilities, a climbing wall, a concessions area, and a nutrition center support the school’s belief that these activities allow students to become “strong, creative, resilient and flexible people.” Support spaces include locker rooms and team rooms, a training room with hydrotherapy, and an athletics administrative suite. Additionally, the wellness program is anchored by an open multi-story lounge space flanked by a nutrition bar and flexible classroom spaces that are used in a variety of purposes, including traditional instruction and team meetings.