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Stern’s Philadelphia Skyscraper Finally Moves Forward

Images Courtesy Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Four years after its original public announcement, Robert Stern’s two-building office complex for downtown Philadelphia—dubbed Pennsylvania Plaza— is finally beginning construction. The impetus for moving forward on the anticipated project is a $30 million state grant, approved last month by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a former Philadelphia mayor.

Up first is the 57-story, $465 million structure known as the Comcast Center, headquarters for the Philadelphia telecommunications giant. Once completed in 2007, the center will rise 975 feet, towering above Philadelphia’s current tallest building by more than 30 feet and forging a new icon onto the city’s skyline.

Stern’s design team has created an unembellished geometric form with a rectangular glass box at its top. Other highlights include a mammoth structural core and a 110-foot high winter garden housing what will be a luxurious interior dining court. Stern designed the winter garden—a series of stacked triple-height spaces—to establish a podium scale that relates to the traditional 16-story Philadelphia commercial buildings neighboring Comcast Center.

The building will be sheathed in high-performance low-E coding glass. Stern says the center establishes a new standard for skyscrapers in the United States, one long-embraced in Europe, with greater floor heights (Comcast Center has 13-foot ceilings), daylight channeled through the interior, and improved quality of air and better performing air-flow systems.

Nearly comprising an entire city block within the heart of Philadelphia’s financial district, Pennsylvania Plaza’s half-acre exterior landscape, designed by Philadelphia’s Olin Partnership, will serve as a public space offering outdoor dining and seating areas accentuated with a water element. Construction of the second building, an 18-story office structure masterplanned by Stern’s office, will commence at a later date.

Joseph Dennis Kelly II