March 13, 2003

I've sometimes joked here at TRR that if you want something done right, do it yourself, but if you want something done wrong, take it to Philadelphia. That's an overstatement, of course, but there are days when I wonder.

There are advantages to living in a city that sometimes seems to take pride in its undeserved reputation for mediocrity, a city with a perpetual inferiority complex. The main advantage is that when something is done right, well, people notice.

And people will notice One Pennsylvania Plaza.

Not yet. It isn't finished. But as Harris M. Steinberg's early review of the plans, published in the latest edition of Philadelphia City Paper, "High Hopes," make perfectly clear, "Pennsylvania Plaza promises to be the finest addition to our city and skyline since the PSFS Building." [The PSFS Building was discussed here last November, in "Philadelphia: Love It or Hate It."]

Steinberg writes:

Planned for the edge of Penn Center, Philadelphia's tepid imitation of Rockefeller Center, the smart people of Liberty Property Trusts through the clever and talented hands of architect Robert A. M. Stern and landscape architect Laurie Olin have crafted a building so finely conceived and so seamlessly integrated into the urban fabric that at first glance you wonder what all the fuss is about. Behind the tailored, Saville Row-quality of its Kasota stone exterior skin (the same golden-hued limestone used at the Philadelphia Museum of Art), this dapper piece of urbanism strikes all the right chords....

Liberty Property Trust is once again daring Philadelphia to be great. The company that in the 1980s defied the unwritten height limit of Billy Penn's hat -- unleashing a flurry of buildings that artfully scrape the sky, reinvigorating our urban identity -- now offers us a building of excellence that will quietly brush the clouds as it urges us onward. For this is a building that believes in Philadelphia's future as much as it is proud of our past.

With a nod to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in both its color and its abstracted classicism, One Pennsylvania Plaza grasps the significance of our rightful place in the history of American civic design while maintaining a keen eye toward the future. This is a building to be proud of.

What are you waiting for? Go ahead. Take a look. And then take another. And then have another.


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