Foster + Partners has won an international competition to design the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, a mixed-use tower combining high-tech research and development spaces with a hotel at 1800 Arch Street in Philadelphia, next to the existing Comcast Tower. At 1121 feet (341 metres), it will be the city’s tallest building and America’s tallest outside New York and Chicago. With an efficient, sustainable design targeting LEED Platinum, a vertical series of ‘pocket parks’ and inspiring social spaces, the tower will provide a unique, highly flexible workplace that can nurture innovation and help the world’s largest media company attract the industry’s leading talent.
The tower is vertically stepped, with loft-like work spaces and state-of-the-art television studios for NBC at the base, and a 12-storey hotel above. The hotel lobby is at the apex of the tower, along with a restaurant and bar with unrivalled city views. The core is split, creating a visual axis through the building to Comcast Tower and a clear orientation spine. This central spine is articulated at the top of the building as illuminated blades of glass, which extends 126 feet (38 metres) above the tower to provide a marker on the skyline. The tower’s facades are animated by panoramic glass lifts and a series of thirteen three-storey sky gardens, which rise up through the eastern elevation to draw a continuous strand of greenery through the building.
At an urban scale, the project is conceived as a welcoming addition to the neighbourhood, integrated with its start-up businesses, shops, bars and restaurants. The Arch Street site is between the residential and social hub of Rittenhouse Square and the cultural district around Ben Franklin Parkway. Reflecting Philadelphia’s great civic tradition of public spaces, at ground level these two worlds come together in an ‘urban room’, which combines the best elements of a lobby, a plaza, retail and social spaces to create something completely new for the public realm of the city. Below street level, a sheltered subterranean connection, centred on a channel of water and lined with shops, works of art and seating areas, links the existing Comcast Tower with the new building.
The large, open floor plates are filled with daylight – each office level is equivalent in scale to twelve tennis courts. The interior is fluid and dynamic, with loft-like, highly flexible spaces designed to allow staff great freedom in choosing where and how they work. Services are exposed and workplaces can be easily reconfigured, adapted and personalised to create project spaces for collaborating agencies or changing business needs.
Responding to analysis of Philadelphia’s climate, the LEED Platinum design takes advantage of the city’s pleasant spring, summer and fall to introduce daylight and provide protection from the harsh winter. The scheme incorporates chilled beams and the building’s structure and podium shelter the outdoor spaces, protecting Comcast Plaza from westerly and north-westerly winds.