International House is a residential, educational, and social center in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia that serves college and graduate students of all nationalities. The project was awarded based on an architectural competition.
The building is the result of an elaborate and forward-looking social program that foreshadowed the residential colleges that many universities are imitating today. At the base of the building is the Commons, an area where the public is invited in to mingle with foreign and American students, advancing the goals of cultural exchange and international understanding that are at the heart of the International House mission.
The two-story Commons is organized along an interior pedestrian street, lit by enormous north-facing clerestory windows. It comprises a large dining hall and kitchen, snack bar, shops, game rooms, lounges, multipurpose/theater, meeting rooms, and attached parking garage.
The upper levels consist of three floors containing 33 efficiency and one-bedroom apartments and seven floors containing 450 single bedrooms organized into 10-person suites, each with its own living room, study, and bath. Common lounges and study areas are located at each level to encourage interaction among the suites.
Although the living units are located in a high-rise tower, a generous amount of outdoor space is provided for each resident. A south-facing, walled courtyard separates the building from the street and accommodates al-fresco dining and informal lounging. At the apartment floors, each unit opens out to a broad balcony that runs the entire length of the south facade of the building. At the suite levels, each shared lounge opens onto a south-facing balcony.
The project provides nuanced levels of public and private space, offering residents a broad range of options for solitude or community interaction as they engage in their daily activities.
The entire building is constructed of cast-in-place concrete, which stepped profile, extruded balconies, and bris soleil create a lively pattern of light and shadow on the facade. The exterior of this large building is further animated by a clear distinction between common and private spaces and the orderly but varied rhythm of the window and door openings.