Philadelphia’s Schuylkill Yards is undergoing a massive redevelopment by Brandywine Realty Estate that will bring half-a-dozen new buildings, totaling approximately six million square feet, into the center of the city. Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), is joining the fray with JFK Towers; a duo of cantilevering, offset mixed-use buildings clad in terra-cotta and aluminum.
The project, which broke ground in November 2017 and is master-planned by SHoP Architects, follows a spate of railyard redevelopments around the country; ranging from the ongoing construction at Hudson Yards to the 244-acre revamp of Sacramento’s former Union Pacific Railyards. In this instance, the redevelopment is located atop the former parking facilities at the adjacent 30th Street Station, rather than decking over the yards that neighbor the Schuylkill River.
As a tabula rasa, the architects enjoyed the opportunity of shaping an entirely new district that will be visibly prominent from most vantage points within Philadelphia—the east tower will reach a height of 512 feet and the west tower will stand at 360 feet—and will effectively bridge Center City to University City across the Schuykill River. “We generated the forms through the site geometry. Rail is adjacent on three sides which bifurcate the buildable area at different angles and heights informing the cantilevers and stacking,” said PAU associate partner Mark Faulkner. “The breaking of our massing into low, mid, and high-rise blocks yields a playful stacking of volumes, efficiency for the complex mixed-used program, and a unique addition to the skyline that announces this important new neighborhood in the city.”
Although the planned towers of Schuykill Yards will dwarf surrounding structures in this corner of West Philadelphia, the design team has included several material choices that will tie the JFK towers to the city-at-large. Outside of Center City, Philadelphia is comprised of residences and small businesses rendered in often brownish-red low-rise brick and masonry. An additional influence can be found in the historic red metal coaches used by the defunct Pennslyvania Railroad headquartered in Philadelphia. The east tower of PAU’s duo will appropriate this heritage with a red terra-cotta base for the vaulted arcade and a similarly-colored polychromatic paint coating over the aluminum cladding. The west tower will be subject to a similar material treatment but in a brownish-gray hue.
The fenestration pattern that will rise from the arcaded base of the two towers will be a clear nod to commercial high modernism, with ribbons of windows divided by protruding vertically-oriented fins, and is a significant diversion from the predominantly all-glass towers otherwise rising throughout the city.
PAU studio associate partner Mark Faulkner and Brandywine Realty Trust vice president Joseph Ritchie will be joining the panel “Schuylkill Yards First Facades: Architects’ and Developers’ POV” at the Architect’s Newspaper‘s upcoming Facades+ Philadelphia conference on October 18.