Skip to main content area Skip to institutional navigation Skip to search Skip to section navigation


Finishes refers to the phase of completing a building project, an endeavor which the Design Team has focused on this month. Where framing always seems to go up quickly, finishes often seem to take a long time due to the high level of coordination and the fact that they need to be done last in the construction sequence.

Finishes are a technical term for the final interior surfaces in architecture; materials like wood, stone, ceramic tile, stainless steel, carpet, and paint. Some are left in their raw state while others are treated such as a protective stain over wood or mechanically polishing a natural stone.  Finishes may be bold, subtle or understated but as the final, and most outwardly visible aspects of design they contribute to set the atmosphere and feeling of a space. Care and craftsmanship are found throughout in a good building but the finishes are where these qualities are most easily seen and appreciated.
There are two distinct finishes inside Golkin Hall that line the floors, walls, and ceilings: a limestone from Israel and a wood from the US. Ramon Gray limestone is a dolomitic limestone that is quarried around Jerusalem and other parts of Israel (see photo) and is recognized as the hardest and most abrasive resistant limestone available. Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely from grains that remain from skeletal fragments of marine organisms, so look closely for coral shells as you experience Golkin’s 4,000 square feet of limestone covered hallways (see photo)! 
Jerusalem Limeston Quarry.jpg  Ramon Gray Detail, Jerusalem Limestone.jpg
The majority of the 3,750 square feet of wood walls, ceilings, doors, bookcases, and trim are American White Oak (see photo). The process of selecting the wood began in February 2011 with members from the Design Team, the Law School, and Penn traveling to the heart of Indiana. The first stop was a veneer plant to select the flitches (8 foot strips of wood cut directly off the tree) that varied based on tree species and grain (see video).  One in particular, an American White Oak, caught our eye, a veneer that included a pattern of flecks, or organic abnormalities in the grain that appeared iridescent in light (see photo).  Our job was done! Next we went to the laminator who takes the flitches and glues them onto 4” X 8’ panels then ships them to be cut into panels and finished (see video). 
American White Oak.jpg Fleck Detail, American White Oak.jpg
This “behind-the-scenes” glimpse into two of Golkin Hall’s more prominent interior finishes concludes with their “in situ” installation and as Greg Burchard, KVA on-site architect, points out, “it’s a logistical challenge.” Hundreds of hours are spent prior to the installation, prepping and verifying the various field conditions. In the case of the wood paneling, each piece must be acclimated to the building interior since fluctuations in building temperature and humidity can cause panels to warp or veneers to delaminate! 
Our hope for the interior of Golkin Hall was to create a sense of welcoming and warmth through the use of natural and enduring materials. “We provided” says Veit Kugel, KVA design architect, “materials whose color is integral to the material itself and only changes with the passage of time, be it by day, night, years, and decades.” As the last of Golkin Hall’s finishes are put in place and the building is complete, a new journey is about to begin by a generation of students, faculty, and administrators who will in time leave their own impression on Golkin Hall and the Penn Law Campus.  Finishes bring us into the future.
Posted by Sheila Kennedy, AIA, and Frano Violich, FAIA, Kennedy & Violich Architecture