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One Liberty Place

Philadelphia skyline lit up from South Philadelphia. Photo by Thomas Koloski

Observing the New Lighting Schemes in the Philadelphia Skyline

Last month, Philadelphia YIMBY reported on new lighting schemes that are decorating the nighttime skyline. Though it was already known that One Liberty Place at 1650 Market Street and the W/Element Hotel at 1441 Chestnut Street, both located in Center City, are having their lighting tested, both now feature together in the skyline, with new programming visible to the residents of the city. The lights on One Liberty Place, which used to be dimmer and had sections of the lighting noticeably lit a different color, the lights have now been fixed and brightened. The W/Element Hotel used to be a dark skyscraper in the night time skyline with just the aviation warning lights noticeable, but now the skyscraper is lit up nearly as much as the FMC Tower in University City.

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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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Philadelphia 1987 and 2020 south elevation. Model and image by Thomas Koloski

Philadelphia YIMBY Compares Massing Renderings of the 1987 and the 2020 Skyline

Over the decades, the Philadelphia skyline has seen many transformations with different iconic images, such as when City Hall stood all alone in the early 1900s. One of the key years in the high-rise history of the city is 1987, when One Liberty Place dramatically surpassed City Hall in height and opened later in the same year. Another key year is 2018, when the skyline gained its first supertall tower with the completion of the Comcast Technology Center. Today Philly YIMBY compares the skyline’s appearance in 1987 to its state in 2020.

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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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