Friday, January 24, 2014

Comcast vs American Commerce Center

Curbed posed a fun question to its readers on Tuesday: "Which Skyscraper Proposed for 18th & Arch is Better For Philly?"

It's a fun conversation starter for architecture nerds, particularly since those are likely the only who remember the proposed American Commerce Center. Liberty Property Trust did a fine job showing off Kohn Penderson Fox's American Commerce Center to the city, but it was always just a building with a theoretical For Rent sign on it. Comcast's Innovation & Technology Center isn't just a building. If it's built, it comes with its own jobs and businesses. 

The answer is obvious: the building most likely to succeed.

American Commerce Center - Kohn Penderson Fox

Architecturally, American Commerce Center complemented the city's existing architecture. It was tall, but it wasn't bold. That's good, but it's not great.

The CITC is new, at least for Philadelphia's skyline. Foster combines his early industrial towers with his newer glass curtains, giving our city something you'd expect to see in London or Hong Kong. The CITC doesn't blend and that's bound to stir up controversy, but breaking convention challenges the status quo, and Philadelphians are no stranger to a rut.

Comcast Innovation & Technology Center - Norman Robert Foster
What's more interesting about the comparison between the ACC and the CITC isn't their designs, or even the likelihood that either would be built, but the city's overall reaction. Despite the fact that the ACC had a slim chance of being erected, it endured a storm of public protest from neighbors.

The CITC seems to have been approved before it left the drafting table. There is no neighboring outcry about shadows. Comcast doesn't even seem interested in releasing varying designs, whereas their original tower was redesigned at least ten times before being finalized.

It's curious how Comcast managed to evade the city's routine community intervention, neighborhood organizations that demand a lot more from much smaller projects. Comcast seems confident that construction of this building, and only this building, will begin this summer. Surprisingly, it seems like Comcast might be right.


  1. The American Commerce Center seemed to be the best skyscraper proposal the city has ever seen in it's history, and it's a shame that this tower won't come to fruition, which is a shame, considering that not only was the building taller than the current CITC, but the ACC also had a shopping mall, an underground garage not just for cars, but for bikes, a 26-story five-star hotel, a movie theatre, a fitness center, a connection to Suburban Station, tons of office space, a 473 ft rooftop garden, and an observation deck.

    The CITC just bites the ACC's attributes (spire, mall, and the fact that the CITC will become the tallest in the city and in the state), plus the design isn't edgy nor is it modern in any way; just another boxy and boring architecture. It's very similar in design to the NBC Tower in Chicago and how that tower had it's spire on it's side. Nothing state of the art ab out the CITC in any way except that it's LEED-Platinum certified. When this tower gets completed in 2017, the design, the aestethics, and the architecture is going to look very dated and boring. Liberty Place, which was first built in 1987 and completed in 1991, today still is a very handsome tower complex compared to this monstrosity that's being constructed at 18th and Arch!!!

    Once the CITC gets competed, the city will never get another skyscraper exceeding the CITC in a long time, and by that, that's meaning most people's lifetime. The FMC Tower , while a much better looking tower than the CITC, is only 730 ft, and SLS Hotel which will be built on Broad and Spruce, is about 580 ft, and the Cira Centre 2 is planned to be 750 ft. The chance of getting a supertall skyscraper in Philadelphia seemed to be the greatest once the ACC was first proposed, and now that chance has been squandered and we have to now live by that choice!!!