Toward the Blue Yonder: Comparing Views from the Tallest Skyscrapers on the Philadelphia Skyline

Arthaus and Center City towers from the I-95. Photo by Thomas KoloskiArthaus and Center City towers from the I-95. Photo by Thomas Koloski

High-rise development offer numerous advantages, including efficient use of valuable urban real estate, environmental benefits through resource use economies of scale and conservation of land, and dense, transit-friendly and pedestrian-favorable environments that create thriving cities. Then, of course, there are the lofty views that are available to dwellers of sky-high aeries. Using the formula of D = 1.22459 x Sqrt (H + 5.58), where D equals distance and H stands for the height of the building’s highest floor and 5.58 represents 5′-7″, the height of the average US adult in feet, we can calculate the longest unobstructed view distances on a clear day from any building level. Today YIMBY offers a comparison of views and view distances from the highest floors of some of the tallest buildings on the Philadelphia skyline.


Comcast Technology Center

1800 Arch Street
Pinnacle: 1,121 feet
Floors: 59
Year: 2018
Highest floor: approx. 980 feet

View distance: 39 miles

Comcast Technology Center west and south faces. Photo by Thomas Koloski

Comcast Technology Center west and south faces. Photo by Thomas Koloski

On a clear day, the view from the top of the Comcast Technology Center, the nation’s tallest building outside of New York City and Chicago spans nearly 39 breathtaking miles, stretching past Trenton, NJ to the northeast and Wilmington, DE through to Maryland to the southwest, almost to Allentown to the north and Reading to the northwest, nearly three-quarters of the way to the Atlantic Ocean’s Jersey Shore to the southeast, and all the way to Princeton, NJ to the northeast, or halfway to New York City. If the building stood in Princeton, its top level would offer a view of both the Philadelphia and New York skylines.

The dramatic views are available to the public at Jean-Georges, Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s signature restaurant, and JG SkyHigh cocktail lounge on the 59th and 60th floors of the luxe Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia. Slightly lower view corridors available from the hotel rooms situated on the mixed-use building’s upper floors.

The much-taller spire is off-limits to the public, or just about anyone except maintenance workers. The view, however, is also available to a certain Philadelphia resident of import. The flat spire pinnacle is home to a miniature statue of William Penn, ensuring that the state’s founder continues to reign above the city skyline in order to avoid the notorious “Curse of Billy Penn.” The “curse” allegedly prevented major league Philadelphia sports teams from winning championships when Penn’s statue atop City Hall was eclipsed by taller buildings.

The Jean-Georges Philadelphia restaurant atop the Comcast-Technology-Center. Credit: Four Seasons Hotel

The Jean-Georges Philadelphia restaurant atop the Comcast-Technology-Center. Credit: Four Seasons Hotel

The Jean-Georges Philadelphia restaurant atop the Comcast-Technology-Center. Credit: Danya Henninger via Billy Penn

The Jean-Georges Philadelphia restaurant atop the Comcast-Technology-Center. Credit: Danya Henninger via Billy Penn


Comcast Center

1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard
Pinnacle: 974 feet
Floors: 57
Year: 2008
Highest floor: approx. 850 feet

View distance: 36 miles

Comcast Center from One Liberty Place. Photo by Thomas Koloski

Comcast Center from One Liberty Place. Photo by Thomas Koloski

The imposing glass-clad pinnacle of the Comcast Center had reigned as Philadelphia’s tallest building for ten years, until its taller counterpart was completed a block to the west. The broad, flat parapet atop the building, which rises just ten feet shy of the 984-foot (300-meter) supertall status, appears reasonably higher than the main roof at the Comcast Technology Center, although it lacks a spire.

The Comcast Center’s pinnacle lacks public access. The top floor, which offers views stretching as far as Trenton to the northeast and Pottstown to the northwest, is reserved exclusively for the office workers.

The roof, however, is a promontory for a 25-inch-tall statue of William Penn, the predecessor to its counterpart atop the Comcast Technology Center and the one that allegedly broke “Billy Penn’s Curse,” with the Philadelphia Phillies winning the World Series the year the building was completed. Notably, the Philadelphia Eagles also won the Superbowl shortly after the completion of the taller Comcast Technology Center, which also houses a William Penn statuette at the top.

View from then top floor of the Comcast Center. Looking south. Credit: Streets Dept

View from then top floor of the Comcast Center. Looking south. Credit: Streets Dept


One Liberty Place

1650 Market Street
Pinnacle: 945 feet
Floors: 61
Year: 1987
Highest floor: approx. 790 feet

View distance: 35 miles

One Liberty Place from Cira Green. Photo by Thomas Koloski

One Liberty Place from Cira Green. Photo by Thomas Koloski

The tiered pyramidal pinnacle atop One Liberty Place, Philadelphia’s third-tallest building, stands as a blue-glass-clad homage to New York City’s legendary Chrysler Building. The building, officially stylized as ONE Liberty Place, has become a beloved city icon during its 21-year reign as the city’s tallest building. However, upon its 1987 completion as part of the Liberty Place complex, architect Helmut Jahn‘s graceful tower generated notable controversy for boldly shattering the city’s long-running, progress-stymieing “gentlemen’s agreement” to avoid building higher than the 548-foot-tall William Penn statue constructed atop City Hall in 1901. Though One Liberty Place ushered a new era for the Philadelphia skyline, it allegedly invoked the “Curse of Billy Penn,” which purportedly prevented major league Philadelphia teams from winning championships.

Upon completion, the building pinnacle lacked public access. However, 2015 saw the opening of the One Liberty Observation Deck, which sits within the top of the pyramidal crown and offers views covering most of the Greater Philadelphia metropolitan area. The observatory closed to the public in September of last year. However, YIMBY readers may continue to savor the views via our recent feature.

One Liberty Observation Deck looking west. Photo by Thomas Koloski

One Liberty Observation Deck looking west. Photo by Thomas Koloski

West view from One Liberty Observation Deck. Photo by Thomas Koloski

West view from One Liberty Observation Deck. Photo by Thomas Koloski


Two Liberty Place

1650 Market Street
Pinnacle: 848 feet
Floors: 58
Year: 1990
Highest floor: approx. 780 feet

View distance: 34 miles

Two Liberty Place from One Liberty Place. Photo by Thomas Koloski

Two Liberty Place from One Liberty Place. Photo by Thomas Koloski

Two Liberty Place, officially stylized as 2 Liberty Place or 2LP, is the fraternal twin to One Liberty Place. Although the building lacks a tall spire, its general size and massing is comparable to its slightly-taller counterpart. The building’s common areas, elevators, and conference center were recently renovated in a project headed by Gensler.

The top levels of Two Liberty Place house luxury apartments, with top-floor views reserved for their well-heeled residences. The views are comparable to that of the observatory in the first tower, although the horizon is similarly obscured in the northwestern direction by taller buildings. However, being the southwesternmost tower of Center City‘s primary skyscraper cluster, the building’s upper floors offer uniquely unobstructed views in all other directions.

Penthouse at Two Liberty Place. Credit: The Residences at Two Liberty Place via Phillymag

Penthouse at Two Liberty Place. Credit: The Residences at Two Liberty Place via Phillymag

Penthouse at Two Liberty Place. Credit: The Residences at Two Liberty Place via Phillymag

Penthouse at Two Liberty Place. Credit: The Residences at Two Liberty Place via Phillymag


BNY Mellon Center

1735 Market Street
Pinnacle: 792 feet
Floors: 53
Year: 1990
Highest floor: approx. 650 feet

View distance: 31 miles

Mellon Bank Center crown. Photo by Thomas Koloski

Mellon Bank Center crown. Photo by Thomas Koloski

The white lattice of the pyramidal cap atop the BNY Mellon Center, formerly known as the Mellon Bank Center, soars 792 feet above Center City’s crowded sidewalks. The top floor of the obelisk-like tower is reserved for the members of the aptly-named Pyramid Club, a meeting, dining, and event venue reserved for “Philadelphia’s business elite” as per the official website.

The venue, part of a franchise with high-rise counterparts in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Dallas, offers views stretching from Delaware to Central Jersey and the Pine Barrens. The obelisk-like building’s location in the center of Center City’s skyscraper cluster means that northbound and southwestern views are somewhat obscured by taller towers, though this also translates into exquisite up-close views of the office towers themselves, a suitable backdrop for business luncheons and jet-setter toasts.

Pyramid Club Philadelphia. Credit: Clubcorp

Pyramid Club Philadelphia. Credit: Clubcorp

Pyramid Club Philadelphia. Credit: Adrienne Matz Photography via Philly In Love

Pyramid Club Philadelphia. Credit: Adrienne Matz Photography via Philly In Love


Three Logan Square

1717 Arch Street
Pinnacle: 739 feet
Floors: 55
Year: 1991
Highest floor: approx. 650 feet

View distance: 31 miles

Bell Atlantic Tower from Logan Square. Photo by Thomas Koloski

Bell Atlantic Tower from Logan Square. Photo by Thomas Koloski

Three Logan Square, previously known as the Bell Atlantic Tower, is a stand-out on Philadelphia’s blue-glass skyline thanks to its slab-like form and red granite exterior. The stepped setbacks at the crown of the office tower read as a Postmodern interpretation of the Rockefeller Center and similar Art Deco landmarks.

The general public may take in the views from the top floor by attending an event at the banquet hall known as Sky Philadelphia, formerly called Top of the Tower. Although southbound views are limited by the hulking slabs of the Comcast towers and the BNY Mellon Bank high-rise, the venue offers entirely unobstructed northbound panoramas. Until recently, the outdoor deck situated on one of the upper setbacks housed SkyGarten, a beer garden with some of the city’s most dramatic views.

SkyGarten Philadelphia. Credit: Julianna Cossman for SkyGarten

SkyGarten Philadelphia. Credit: Julianna Cossman for SkyGarten


FMC Tower

2929 Walnut Street
Pinnacle: 736 feet
Floors: 49
Year: 2017
Highest floor: approx. 650 feet

View distance: 31 miles

Cira Center, Evo, and FMC Tower from South Street. Photo by Thomas Koloski

Cira Center, Evo, and FMC Tower from South Street. Photo by Thomas Koloski

The FMC Tower at Cira Centre South in University City is Philadelphia’s only skyscraper outside of the main business core with a height than can go toe-to-toe with the greatest contenders in Center City. Described as a “vertical neighborhood” in official literature, the mixed-use building offers extended-stay corporate suites, work spaces, residences on the upper levels, and unobstructed top-floor views in all directions.

Endurance of unobstructed views from the top of FMC Tower is all but guaranteed, as none of the developments currently underway in University City reach anywhere near its imposing height. Even the various supertalls on the drawing boards for the neighborhood are located far enough to pose no significant viewshed obstructions to horizon-bound vistas from the tower.

21M rendering. Photo from Brandywine Realty Trust

A rendering for the 21M development, which approximates views from the top floors of the FMC Tower. Credit: Brandywine Realty Trust


In a follow-up feature, Philly YIMBY will look at, or look out from, some of the tallest buildings underway and recently completed in Philadelphia. Stay tuned, and keep looking up!

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3 Comments on "Toward the Blue Yonder: Comparing Views from the Tallest Skyscrapers on the Philadelphia Skyline"

  1. Jesse Barclay | January 7, 2022 at 6:29 am | Reply

    Wow

  2. My favorite is the BNY Mellon center. Has more character than the other ones…not all glass, has a sweet cornice, not a copy of another building and doesn’t look like a USB drive.

    However, doing construction in BNY Mellon sucks because the elevators are too small. Why do architects continue to design high rise buildings that do not have freight elevators!!

  3. Charles Terry | January 8, 2022 at 4:41 am | Reply

    Truly Amazing

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