Designing the Comcast Technology Center, The Tallest Skyscraper in Philadelphia

Comcast Technology Center completed. Photo by Thomas Koloski

The Comcast Technology Center at 1800 Arch Street in Center City has stood as Philadelphia’s tallest skyscraper since 2017, with a height of 1,121 feet, and Philadelphia YIMBY takes a look at various concepts through schematics and models of the tower before the design was finalized.

Early concept of the Comcast Technology Center. Photo from Foster and Partners

Early concept of the Comcast Technology Center. Photo from Foster and Partners

The skyscraper was unveiled in 2014, just six years after the completion of the first Comcast Center tower. Designed by Foster and Partners and developed by Liberty Property Trust, the building features a structure clad in glass and metal with angled beams and a frosted lantern that lights up at night.

Early concept model of the Comcast Technology Center. Image from Foster and Partners

Early concept model of the Comcast Technology Center. Image from Foster and Partners

The search for an architect had likely started right after Liberty Property Trust had acquired the site on August 19, 2011. Soon after their selection, Foster and Partners produced early sketches and models by April 2013.

Early concept model of the Comcast Technology Center with a lantern. Image from Foster and Partners

Early concept model of the Comcast Technology Center with a lantern. Image from Foster and Partners

The design showed a tall, blocky tower split in three sections, presenting one of the main elements of the current design. By the next month another model showed a change with the outer sections with curved sections protruding from the tower, with the north section rising higher and the central structure becoming thinner when viewed from the north and south.

Early concept of the Comcast Technology Center base. Photo from Foster and Partners

Early concept of the Comcast Technology Center base. Photo from Foster and Partners

The next iteration showed the north and south sections at the same height and rose higher than before. The concept was topped with a large structure on the west side topped with a thin spire. The following version shows the elevator banks, cooling towers, and lantern centered along the north and south profile with the east and west faces of the lantern pushed into the structure. This version would have had a shorter roof height and more metal cladding on the east and west faces.

Comcast Technology Center. Rendering by Foster + Partners

The following iteration shows the elevator banks, cooling towers, and lantern placed where they are today. The tower has a thinner lantern and the elevator banks rose higher. The next design after that shows a taller spire, giving the top a dominating look, though it also has a lower rooftop.

Unfinished Comcast Innovation and Technology Center design. Rendering by DBOX and Foster and Partners

Compared to the last design, the following version is very similar, only eliminating the extra metal cladding on the corners of the office section of the skyscraper. The next version shows a final roof height of 911 feet and a finalized shape for the skyscraper.

Comcast Innovation and Technology Center. Rendering from Foster and Partners

Comcast Innovation and Technology Center. Rendering from Foster and Partners

The next design is the version that was first unveiled in 2014. The tower had a thinner lantern and the elevator banks were flush with the roof line. But at the time of the unveiling, it seems that the design was unfinished as interiors were not done designing and the tower eventually had some slight revisions.

Final design of the Comcast Technology Center. Rendering by Foster and Partners

Final design of the Comcast Technology Center. Rendering by Foster and Partners

The final design was shown, featuring the lantern being thickened from the north and south view. The lantern was originally shown with standard glass covering the structure, but in the final design frosted glass covers the cross-braced structure. The elevator banks now extend one floor above the roof. The section under the roof and terraces was shown to have gradient glass that had dark glass and the bottom as it fades up to frosted white. The base also has angled cuts.

Comcast Technology Center design evolution. Models and animation by Thomas Koloski

Comcast Technology Center design evolution (click to play). Models and animation by Thomas Koloski

The bright feature on top is reminiscent of One Liberty Place and the other towers that broke through heights once thought unreachable. By now the tower has been open for nearly two years now with a beacon that crowns the expanding skyline. We can only wonder what building will pass the Comcast Technology Center in height next and how it will fit into the Philadelphia skyline.

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7 Comments on "Designing the Comcast Technology Center, The Tallest Skyscraper in Philadelphia"

  1. The rumor of a third tower is a much shorter building in height.

    This tower was designed for startups with lofts, very similar to 425 Park Avenue.

    Lord Foster designed 425 Park Avenue with the 3 fins which is a very similar design element to the latern spire atop of the Comcast Technology Center.

    While 425 Park Avenue wasn’t designed to be very tall at only 860 feet (which is short by Manhattan standards), the Comcast Technology Center was specifically designed to be the tallest in the city.

    It was such an honor to have Lord Norman Foster in Philadelphia.
    I really enjoy his designs.

    I hope he comes back to Philadelphia soon to help develop the next supertall.

  2. There is a historically protected church on the Comcast site It was planned to put a shorter building after clearing the site but that has not happened at all as they have not moved a muscle at all on the site.

    Do you think Comcast will buy an existing building not too far away for their needs? I think it could be the red stone clad building a stone’s throw away.

  3. Gabriel Gottlieb | March 21, 2021 at 8:47 pm | Reply

    Most people don’t realize this, but the Comcast Technology Center is actually 1,150 feet tall (1,149 feet and six inches, but it’s alright to round up). The roof is at about 950 feet tall. When they added the 60th floor to the design, they added that extra height, but the media never found out. I had a chance to see the official blueprints, and that’s the definitive authority.

    • Welcome to the community, Gabriel.

      Thank you for sharing this interesting news, unfortunately all of the online publications have recorded 1,121 feet for the Comcast Technology Center.

      In fact, there are two official announcement videos (published on YouTube) declaring 1,121 feet.

      Is it possible for someone to make this correction a legally published fact?

  4. I do rather like the look of the CTS. But I really don’t like the over-bright lantern at night; very much a “sore thumb” effect.

  5. Bryce P Thomas | March 22, 2021 at 5:21 pm | Reply

    I have not seen this but is not some the other buildings are taller ? except for the pinnacle, that cheats the height.

    • The Comcast Center has a mechanical roof that appears higher than the actual roof on the Comcast Technology Center.

      Mechanical roof is the same logic as a spire, they are both higher than the actual roof.

      You see that allot in Manhattan. Just look at the shameless thin spire atop of the New York Times building on 8th Avenue. The Conde Nast building in Times Square is cheating just as bad.

      At least the two Comcast buildings do it better. Looks legit to me.

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