Philadelphia Skyscraper Rewrites the Corporate Headquarters Script

Comcast recently released designs for a $1.2 billion skyscraper in Downtown Philadelphia. The building’s potential starkly contrasts the suburban model of commercial office parks.
January 20, 2014, 10am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Comcast has proposed a $1.2 billion, 59-story building designed by Norman Foster at 18th and Arch in Philadelphia. When it opens in 2017, the 1,211-foot-tall building will be the country’s eight tallest, and the tallest outside of New York and Chicago.

Inga Saffron writes that the building is a rebuttal to the bubble conditions of other high tech office parks. And yes, Saffron recognizes the irony of Foster's involvement with this potential sea change of commercial design ethos. "He's the same guy who is designing Apple's sprawling new headquarters on a 170-acre suburban site in Cupertino, Calif., a low-slung, four-story ring that reinforces the status quo.”

Rather, Saffron explains, the new tower is “a skyscraper version of the great, light-filled factory lofts of the early 20th century.” The program of the building is made all the more powerful but its position within the context of the city, where it will be “wedged into the unpredictable heart of Center City atop the region's densest transit hub.”

Moreover, Saffron is explicit about the lofty ambitions for the building: “The tower's simplicity is as potentially radical as Walter Gropius' Fagus factory was in 1913, because it recognizes that urban skyscrapers are not just for paper pushers, but also for collaboration and creativity.”

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Published on Thursday, January 16, 2014 in Philadelphia Inquirer
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