Opening Statements

Brick, Mortar, and High-Tech

Posted Aug 1, 2009 9:50 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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In an age where law students are more familiar with digital books than bound ones, Pennsylvania State Uni­versity’s Dickinson School of Law is spending up to $140 million on two new buildings, including a new law library that is a masterpiece of modern architecture.

The 114,000-square-foot glass-enclosed library, which opened last year, seems to float in snake­like fashion on the school’s main University Park campus. The building—which houses classrooms, a 250-seat auditorium, a high-tech courtroom, outdoor terraces and reading gardens—will be digitally linked to another new building under construction on the law school’s second campus in Carlisle.

That building will host upper-level classes that will be video-linked to the University Park campus using technology that will activate microphones and high-definition cameras.

The new buildings are designed to help the school integrate its two campuses, after Penn State’s 2000 merger with Dick­in­son Univer­sity’s law school, says Philip McConnaughay, the current dean.

Dickinson has received ABA accreditation as a unitary two-location law school and is part of an ABA pilot program assessing the association’s rules for distance legal education. New York City architectural firm Polshek Partnership Architects designed both buildings.

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