Proj Overview

Project Overview

Villanova University is a private Catholic research university located 12 miles west of Philadelphia, Pa. One of only two Augustinian institutions in the United States, it is situated along the Philadelphia Main Line in the suburban town of Villanova. The university’s master plan included balancing the arts and athletic programs with additions to campus. The John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts is the last in a series of planned projects along Lancaster Avenue. The goal was to create a venue that would give the local community an opportunity to experience new forms of art and culture, as well as a facility where theater students could experience hands-on learning.

The new performing arts center features two main performance spaces. One is a 400-seat proscenium-style theatre with tailored acoustics, theatrical lighting, and modern technology. This space accommodates concert series, lectures, and major event screenings for both the local community and the student body. The other performance venue is a 200-seat courtyard theatre, which features state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment. Both theaters open into a double-height lobby that serves as a pre-event space.

The Villanova campus is known for its Gothic-style architecture, and the performing arts center’s design complements the traditional style of surrounding structures. Precast concrete panels with plant-installed stone met the aesthetic and functional needs of the university at a lower cost and faster construction time than could have been achieved with a design featuring a traditional stone facade.

During the project, it was important to minimize disruption to campus life. Construction activities and precast concrete installation had to be thoughtfully planned around the school’s academic calendar. The general contractor had to stockpile the excavated soils on site, which left limited space for a laydown area for on-site equipment and materials. Consequently, the team worked with the PCI-certified precast concrete producer and other subcontractors to coordinate logistics and instituted a strict “just-in-time” delivery policy for materials and equipment. Under these conditions, no building material or system other than precast concrete could have been used.

In addition to site restrictions, the project team also faced the challenge of creating a facade that would match the stylistic details of both new and old existing buildings. The precast concrete panels were produced off site for improved quality control and more efficient construction. The stones were carefully positioned in the form to be visually cohesive and capped by precast concrete coping accents. Traditional gabled roofs on either end of the building contrast with the gracious curve of the main entrance.

Precast concrete met the aesthetic and functional needs of the university with lower costs, labor, and lead time so the new theater could begin operations as soon as possible. Clad in precast concrete and fieldstone panels with limestone trim, the new performing arts center and its rounded entry plaza anchor an important gateway to the university campus.


2023 PCI Design AwardsTheater Structure Honorable Mention
Project Team


Villanova University, Villanova, Pa.


Voith & Mactavish Architects, Philadelphia, Pa.

PCI-Certified Precast Concrete Producer:

High Concrete Group, Denver, Pa.

Engineer of Record:

O’Donnell & Naccarato, Philadelphia, Pa.

General Contractor:

L.F. Driscoll Company, Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

Project Cost:

$45 million

Project Size:

83,815 ft²

Key Project Attributes

  • Precast concrete provided more consistency, dimensional stability, ease of installation, details, and cost savings than could have been achieved using another building material.
  • The precast concrete panels with inlaid stone blend into the architectural aesthetic of the campus.
  • The precast concrete radius panels were used to create a rounded entry plaza that welcomes the community.

Project/Precast Scope

  • The precast concrete components include column covers, copings, and architectural precast concrete (wall panels with inlaid stone and sandblasted finishes).
  • Natural fieldstone was embedded into the panels at the precaster’s plant, which accelerated the construction process.