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Commerce Square in the Philadelphia skyline. Photo by Thomas Koloski

A Look at Commerce Square, Philadelphia’s Twin Towers

Philadelphia is home to many skyscrapers designed by well-known architects from around the world. Among these are the twin towers of Commerce Square, which were designed by the renowned firm of I.M. Pei & Partners. The 565-foot-tall One Commerce Square and Two Commerce Square towers are still prominent on the Philadelphia skyline to this day, and they take up an entire city block at 2001 Market Street and 2005 Market Street in Center City. Both of the 41-story structures are framed in steel, and each is topped with a decorative diamond on the east and west faces. Maguire Thomas Partners was the developer of the towers at the time of the completion of One Commerce Square in 1987 and five years when Two Commerce Square was completed, which was also the time when the developers decided to split their partnership.

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

Looking at Two Liberty Place, Philadelphia’s Fourth-Tallest Building, in Center City

The majority of the skyscrapers that dominate the Philadelphia skyline are the trophy towers that were built in the late 1980s. One of these buildings is the 848-foot-tall, 58-story Two Liberty Place at 50 South 16th Street in Center City, the city’s fourth-tallest building. The skyscraper is a part of the Liberty Place complex that consists of two towers connected by a mall and a hotel. The skyscraper was designed by Helmut Jahn, who also designed buildings such as MesseTurm in Frankfurt, Germany, 50 West Street in New York City, and the Bank of America Tower in Jacksonville, Florida, among many others. The developer of the project was Rouse and Associates, which eventually transformed into Liberty Property Trust, which built both of the Comcast skyscrapers that today dominate the skyline.

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Bell Atlantic Tower. Photo by Thomas Koloski

A Look At Past Designs for the Bell Atlantic Tower in Logan Square, Center City

In the 1980s, new skyscraper proposals surged after the proposed Liberty Place project was poised to break the 548-foot height limit established by the tower of City Hall. Five of the proposals now stand in the skyline, which include the 739-foot-tall Bell Atlantic Tower at 1717 Arch Street in Logan Square, Center City. Designed by Kling Lindquist, the setbacks of the 55-story skyscraper were partially inspired by structures such as the Empire State Building and One Liberty Place, which itself is similar to the Chrysler Building. Brandywine Realty Trust has owned the skyscraper since 2010, and is now officially known as Three Logan Square. Today Philly YIMBY looks at the alternate designs that were once considered for the structure.

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Philadelphia 1945 and 2020 south elevation. Model and image by Thomas Koloski

Philadelphia YIMBY Compares Massing Renderings of the 1945 and the 2020 Skyline

In the mid-1940s, the Philadelphia skyline still maintained the general look it received during the construction boom of the 1920s and 1930, when several new towers added significant mass to the Center City skyline. The Philadelphia City Hall still topped the skyline at 548 feet tall, but by the 40s more high-rises were nearing the top of the clock tower, with several rising in the 300-foot range. A number of Art Deco buildings stood out, with predominantly light and dark brown shades. Today Philly YIMBY compares massing renderings of the 1945 skyline and the 2020 skyline.

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The Lewis Tower from Arthaus. Photo by Thomas Koloski

A Look At The Lewis Tower At 1425 Locust Street in Rittenhouse Square, Center City

Philadelphia is home to a sizable collection of intricately designed skyscrapers that were built between 1920 and 1940, which still stand out on the cityscape despite being drastically shorter than the modern towers of Center City. The east side of the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood features many towers built within that time frame, including The Lewis Tower, now known as The Aria Condos at 1425 Locust Street. The structure rises 389 feet and 33 stories tall, just one block to the north of the 375-foot-tall tower known as The Drake. The skyscraper was designed by Edmund Gilchrist, and Gravell and Hall engineered the steel structure. The Art Deco building was completed in 1929.

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