Hill College House, formerly one of the ‘most-loathed’ dorms, wins award for renovation


Credit: Tamara Wurman

Hill College House has come a long way from being designated as one of the “most-loathed” dormitories in the country. This week, its $80 million renovation was given the Award of Merit for Renovation/Restoration from the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Engineering News-Record, a Manhattan-based magazine that analyzes and provides news for the international construction industry.

Originally designed to be a women’s dormitory, Hill underwent a major renovation in 2016, reopening last year to freshmen in the Class of 2021. Changes included a revamp of the dormitory’s in-house dining hall and the introduction of a new, energy-saving HVAC system and wall insulation. “Every single inch of the building [was] touched in some fashion,” Design and Construction Project Manager Dave Dunn said at the time.

These changes caught the eye of ENR’s Mid-Atlantic chapter, which hosts annual awards for the best construction projects that are designed and executed in New England and South Atlantic states. The best projects advance to a national adjudication, while Awards of Merit are given to the rest of the projects being honored.

Hill’s restoration won this award because it “involved significant technical challenges,” the ENR chapter said, citing the specific challenge of “installing a new MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) system through the existing concrete structure.” The chapter also commended the project team for “reus[ing] existing materials and features when possible to preserve the original design of noted Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen.” Saarinen has also designed parts of the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and the Dulles Airport in Washington DC

Credit: Megan Jones

Hill College House was designed in 1958 and was named in 1965 after Robert C. Hill, 1889 Wharton graduate. The dorm was initially designed to house only women, and some of its iconic features, including the drawbridge and the spiked fence, were intended to deter men from entering, according to the College House’s website. Now, Hill is a co-ed house that accommodates nearly 500 freshmen.

In May 2016, Hill was closed for renovation and repair. In August of 2017, the 195,000 square-foot building reopened to welcome incoming members of the Class of 2021. New features of Hill include restored windows, an air-conditioning system, new furniture, new wiring, and gender-neutral bathrooms with private toilets rooms and private shower rooms. It also boasts the largest dining hall on campus.

The general contractor in charge of Hill’s renovation was INTECH Construction, and the lead design firm was Mills + Schnoering Architects LLC.