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It's Always Concrete in Philadelphia

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This summer I made several trips to Philadelphia to participate in a two-stage GSA Design Excellence jury held at the GSA's office in the Rohm and Haas Corporate Headquarters.

Mark Sexton

Founding Principal / FAIA / Leed AP

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Completed in 1964 and designed by Pietro Belluschi and George M. Ewing, the nine-story, 300,000 sf. building, just off Independence Mall, is enveloped in the former chemical manufacturing company’s signature product, Plexiglas. The Plexiglas in the corrugated sunscreens offers relief from the natural sunlight and counterbalances the immense size of the structure with a neutral bronze hue.

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As an icon of the International Style, the building is an inspiration of concrete design and craftsmanship. The load of the upper columns traces down into each column’s capital, which forms the base of the building. Starting from a wide square top, each capital tapers into the body of the column with a structural appropriateness, purity and grace.

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The movement from wide to narrow is complemented by the faceted sides of the column. The quality and corner precision of the poured-in-place concrete is amazing. In the current design world of hyper-kinetic forms, it is a joy to experience a building where structure is the architecture.