The Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law, Lewis Katz Building

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The Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law, Lewis Katz Building

An object in the landscape, its two ends oriented toward distinct contexts, the Katz Building is the first academic building at the north edge of the University Park campus. The building establishes a gateway to the University and a prominent identity for the new law school as an inspiring and progressive provider of legal education.

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The goal is to facilitate interchange by designing spaces that promote gathering and communication, social and academic. The design acknowledges the library as the theoretical and physical heart of the legal educational experience, the center in which students spend much of their time.

Richard Olcott, Design Partner

Conceived as a floating volume, the law library is expressed as central to the legal educational experience, sheltering the rest of the School’s program beneath. The ground plane flows unimpeded, linking interior and exterior space and fostering openness and accessibility emblematic of the School’s goals. A broad commons area opens to the landscape and follows its stepping contours.

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Clad in glass, the curving library volume creates a constantly changing backdrop of reflected sunlight throughout the day and a beacon of light at night. A continuous circulation route unifies the library’s two levels, providing several different types of study environments. 

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Faculty offices occupy a masonry bar parallel to the library volume, providing professors with direct access to the school’s research collections and fostering interaction between students and faculty.

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University Park, PA
114,000 GSF
Ceremonial Courtroom, Legislative Hearing Room, Auditorium, Library, Reading Room, Clasrooms, Public Space, Exterior Gathering Space
LEED Certified


Ennead Design Team
Richard Olcott, Timothy Hartung, Kate Mann, Andrew Burdick, Kevin McClurkan, Felicia Berger, M. Gregory Clawson, David Ooyevaar, Chris Andreacola, Charmian Place, Sean Baumes, Anthony Buccellato, Darla Elsbernd, Nicholas Hunt, Kyo-Young Jin, Douglas Kawano, Youngsun Ko, Kathleen Kulpa, Yekta Pakdaman-Hamedani, Margaret Reed, Ted Wagner, Henry Weintraub
Associate Architect
Office for Planning and Architecture Inc.
Jeff Goldberg/Esto, Albert Vecerka/Esto, Aislinn Weidele/Ennead Architects


  • 2010
    • AIA Central Pennsylvania Honor Award for Architecture
    • AIA Pittsburgh Honor Award for Architecture
    • Society of American Registered Architects, National Design Award of Excellence
    • Society of American Registered Architects / New York Council, Design Award of Merit
    • Society of American Registered Architects / Pennsylvania Council, Design Award of Merit
    • Special Recognition winner of the Marvin M. Black Excellence in Partnering Awards
  • 2009
    • Project of the Year Award Higher Education/Research, Mid-Atlantic Construction Magazine


  • 2019
  • 2012
    • "Lewis Katz Building Named One of the World’s Best Academic Buildings" (Penn State Live, 11/20/2012)
    • "Top 10: University Buildings That Actually Make You Want To Go To Class" (Architizer, 11/13/2012)
    • "Architype Dialogue Presents Richard Olcott" (Architype Review, 6/8/2012)
  • 2010
    • "Pittsburgh Area Architects Award Lewis Katz Building Architectural Design Honor" (Penn State Law, 11/2/2010)
    • "Lewis Katz Building Wins Accolades for Design" (Penn State Law, 8/23/2010)
  • 2009
    • "Lewis Katz Building Wins ‘Project of the Year’ Award" (Penn State Law, 12/15/2009)
    • Boniface, Russell. "Sinuous Penn State Law Building Highlighted by Floating Glass Library" (AIArchitect, 6/12/2009)
    • Lomholt , Isabelle and Adrian Welch. "Dickinson School of Law Development by Polshek Partnership" (e-architect, 5/7/2009)
    • Piell, Amanda B. "Classrooms of the Future" (Buildings Magazine, 10/1/2009)
  • 2007
    • Jones, Kelly. "Penn State Dickinson School of Law announces two largest gifts in school's history" (Penn State Live, 1/20/2007)