Blog: New Kid on the Block / by Michael Louison

Mike Louison
Architectural Designer

Let’s take a quick look at the Philadelphia Skyline, which hasn’t seen much development until the past 10 years. We see the familiar towers of Philadelphia, clad in stone and glass. Now turn your head and you’ll see a bunch of cranes lifting countless pieces of steel into place across the Schuylkill River. With much planned and plenty of opportunities to design, development in this part of the city is booming, but one current project in particular will catch your eye.

Imagine a tower in which you can live, work, and socialize in the same building. Rising 730 feet above University City on the western bank of the Schuylkill River, the soon to be completed FMC tower will be the home to both citizens and employees, as well as a bundle of other amenities, including the luxury extended stay brand, AKA. FMC wasn’t invited to play in the sand box with the other cool kids like Comcast and the Liberty Place buildings, but it does keep a watchful eye over the city from across the Schuylkill. Although the tower isn’t in the midst of all the center city excitement, it does boast magnificent views of the skyline and outskirts of the city. While some of the central skyscrapers are too close for comfort, the FMC Tower can breathe easy and develop its own stomping grounds like Cira Green which is the new elevated park between FMC and Evo.

Are these new towers paving the way for more angled glass gems that mimic the first Cira Center? Is the style and character of these new building being sterilized and streamlined for the sake of fast-paced development? I don’t think so as the FMC building has a bold uniqueness all its own even though it is part of an overall family of buildings along the west bank of the Schuylkill.

What is a “vertical neighborhood?” Indeed, this is a vertical construct that accommodates the different work/live functions of general day-to-day activity, but does it really foster the same community based relationships that can be found walking the streets and parks of Philadelphia? I don’t know, as it is an interesting and attractive concept that needs more time and examples to prove itself.

What I would enjoy seeing for future buildings with vertical neighborhoods is more external celebration of the green space. This could be at the ground plain in large open areas of a building’s façade. It would, in my opinion, help advertise and demonstrate the possibilities of a vertical neighborhood that are hard to appreciate when everything is internalized. While I like the FMC tower, perhaps the next addition to the Cira family will break out of its glass shell and breathe in a little fresh air.

With the recent release of plans to overhaul the 30th Street Station and surrounding area I’m sure Philadelphians are curious to see what the west side of the river will look like in the next 20-30 years. The proposed neighborhoods over the rail parks and the pedestrian bridge over the Schuylkill River are sure to make the area more livable and green. For now, this 49-story FMC Tower will reign supreme in a distant skyline.


IMAGE CREDITS:
1. LOUISON, MIKE. SKETCH OVER ARTIST RENDERING. HTTP://WWW.PHAVED.COM/
2. SKIDMORE, OWINGS & MERRILL LLP, WITH WSP PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF, OLIN, AND HR&A ADVISORS. “RENDERING OF THE PEDESTRIAN AND BIKE BRIDGE AT RACE STREET.” HTTP://PHILLY.CURBED.COM/