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1650 Market Street

One Liberty Place elevation and Helmut Jahn. Photo and image via JAHN

As the World Remembers Helmut Jahn, One Liberty Place Lights Up the Skyline

Philadelphia YIMBY often shares exciting and uplifting news regarding the city and its development. However, on May 8th, in Chicago, world-renowned architect Helmut Jahn was tragically killed in a road incident not far from his eponymous firm. According to the press, Jahn was biking near his home, 40 miles away from Chicago, when he was struck by two vehicles and was pronounced dead the next day at 81 years old. The architect was born on January 4, 1940 in Zindorf, Germany, and has designed an incredible amount of buildings between 1974 and 2017. In his lifetime, Jahn has produced unique and awe-inspiring designs throughout the world, which stood out as ahead of their time, and has left a dramatic imprint on the Philadelphia skyline.

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Bank of the Southwest Tower in the Houston skyline. Image via Jahn/Murphy, Inc

Looking at the Unbuilt Bank of the Southwest Tower, Houston’s Precursor to One Liberty Place

Before One Liberty Place topped the Philadelphia skyline in 1987, a larger skyscraper, also designed by Helmut Jahn, was proposed in the city of Houston, with a design that featured striking similarities to the future Philadelphia tower. Known as the Bank of the Southwest, the supertall was planned to count 82 floors, with an angled crown capped with a sharp spire that would rise 1,404 feet high. The larger office floors were to have angled cuts on each corner. The firm of Jahn/Murphy, Inc. was chosen after a design contest in 1982 and the tower was projected to be completed by 1986. The tower was cancelled by 1983 due to a lack of funding, but elements of the design were later integrated into the Philadelphia skyscraper.

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One Liberty Place and the W/Element Hotel lit up from New Jersey. Photo by Thomas Koloski

New Lighting Schemes Decorate Philadelphia Skyline at Night

Since the late 1980s, Philadelphia’s Center City skyscrapers featured appealing decorative lighting schemes. The first tower to be lit up was One Liberty Place at 1650 Market Street, completed in 1987, with lights accentuating the angled crown and the sharp spire. Over the years more high-rises towers were constructed that also displayed standout nighttime lighting, with one of the biggest recent additions being the Comcast Technology Center with its massive lantern at the top. Even more recent was the W/Element Hotel at 1441 Chestnut Street, where intensive testing of its the decorative lighting started just a few months ago.

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Philadelphia nighttime skyline from New Jersey. Photo by Thomas Koloski

Decorative Lighting Upgrade Complete Atop One Liberty Place in Center City

One Liberty Place has been a centerpiece of the Philadelphia skyline since 1987, with a nighttime display that highlights the angled crown and spire. Designed by renowned architect Helmut Jahn and developed by Rouse and Associates, the 945-foot-tall, 61-story tower is part of a complex that includes the similarly-sized Two Liberty Place tower as well as a hotel and a shopping mall. Recently, an upgrade has been completed on the building’s decorative lighting, restoring its place on the night skyline.

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One Liberty Place from Cira Green. Photo by Thomas Koloski

Designing One Liberty Place, the Tower that Transformed Philadelphia’s Skyline

One Liberty Place at 1650 Market Street is an intricately designed skyscraper has dominated the skyline of Center City for over three decades. Designed by Murphy/Jahn and developed by Rouse and Associates, the tower is clad in a pattern of stone, metal, and glass that rises up to the angled crown and the thin spire. The tower first rose to its final 61-story height in the beginning of 1987, when the top floor was assembled beneath the future spire. Philly YIMBY looks back at the design process by architect Helmut Jahn via drawings from 1984, which show multiple design iterations.

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