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Tower on the Park(way)

Tower on the Park(way)

A jewel box set within a leafy garden by architects Paul Cret and Jacques Gréber sets the stage for a dance of frozen human forms quietly watching over Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum. The tranquil site’s formal arrangement lavishes itself in greenery, only interrupted by the hubbub of traffic along the monumental Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It is here that The Thinker wonders through winter cold and summer heat, and it is against this scene that a proposed 120-unit residential tower is likely to rise, responding to the design of the museum itself.

Designed by local firm BartonPartners for development company Cross Properties, 2100 Hamilton (at the intersection of 21st and Hamilton streets) will dramatically change the backdrop to the museum and its art. The Philadelphia Art Commission has watched closely as the project evolved over the past year. That body unanimously issued a conceptual approval for the tower in early January when architects presented revised plans for the site aiming to better respect Cret’s museum.

Concerned over how development in the museum’s backyard might alter the site experience, the Commission previously sent architects back to the drawing board, and was pleased with new changes. Working with a Commission subcommittee, architects shrunk the building’s footprint, pushing it farther from the museum’s back door—from 60 feet to 87.5 feet. A landscape would “seamlessly” connect with OLIN’s recent revisions at the Rodin. The building in turn grew from six to 11 stories, with a single-story retail podium containing a restaurant and cafe facing the museum. Forty parking spaces are planned underground.

Overall massing shows a limestone podium beneath intersecting volumes clad in a patchwork of non-reflecting blue-tinted glass. Building entrances and the layout of a rooftop garden respond axially to the Rodin Museum. Barton principal Seth Shapiro told the Commission the limestone will relate to the materiality and color of the museum, “but be a more modern interpretation of it.” He said his team is still working on final material choices. “It’s a little oasis where you feel isolated from the city,” said Shapiro. “I don’t think this will change that. The new building is a neutral backdrop behind the museum. We’re doing everything we can to be as neutral as possible.”

The tower is built atop a disused rail trench that still maintains a SEPTA easement, and effectively caps what has long been an overgrown hole in the city grid. One day, commuter trains could again run through the channel below the structure.

Final approval is contingent on a refined plan that appeases not just the Art Commission and Parks & Rec, but also the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and the Rodin Museum itself. Once all four sign off, a rezoning process can proceed that is expected to take about six months followed by the city’s Civic Design Review process.

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