BIG Architecture in Philadelphia

Navy Yard office buildings

1200 Intrepid Ave., Navy Yard Corporate Center, Philadelphia, PA


One of the hottest and most innovative architecture firms in the world, the Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has recently completed only it’s second project in the United States.  1200 Intrepid, a small, speculative office building tucked away in a quiet corner of Philadelphia at the Navy Yard Corporate Center.

A modest four-story spec office building, a category of commercial architecture generally considered to be the equivalent of the tract home, is not the kind of project you’d expect an architect of the stature of Ingels, winner of the 2016 Louis Kahn Memorial award, to take on as an entree to a major new market.  Nor is contracting with a firm of BIG’s repute what you’d expect from a commercial real estate developer looking to put up a building of under 100,000 sq. ft.  But kudos to both Ingels and Philadelphia’s Liberty Property Trust for proving that size doesn’t matter.

From three sides, 1200 Intrepid looks to be a typical, nondescript building that’d be quite at home in most any American office park.  Though tastefully executed with clean, mature lines, it’s easily ignored from the Center’s main drag.  It’s the fourth side, the back(?) side, where Ingels’ imprint looms large.


1200 Intrepid Ave., Philadelphia Naval Shipyard

The circular theme is carried through in the bicycle racks.


Taking his cue from the adjacent Central Green, a five acre green space dominated by a circular track and bounded by a semi-circular drive, Ingels ‘impressed’ this arc into the facade of his building.  Not content with a simple concave wall, though, Ingels inscribed the rear face of 1200 Intrepid with a compound curve, pressing the base of the wall significantly further back than the roof-line, resulting in a “cave-like canopy” that hangs over anyone approaching it and enveloping them into the building.


1200 Intrepid Ave., Philadelphia Naval Shipyard

The concave facade seems to envelop visitors as they enter.


The environment-conscious design carries through to the lobby of the building where it’s twisting atrium works its way up four stories to be capped by a periscope, giving a view not of blue sky, but of blue water and ships at anchor, lending the building a distinctly nautical flavor, and uniting it even further with its environment.


Navy Yard office buildings

The atrium, with it’s periscope view of the shipyard.


While 1200 Intrepid may not have the visual impact or get the media attention of BIG’s other American project, the also recently completed VIA 57 West, a 32 story residential building covering nearly a full city block on the Hudson River in New York city and winner of the 2016 Best Tall Building of the Americas award, it’s long-term impact on commercial architecture may prove to be greater.  By incorporating a couple of thoughtful twists to an otherwise modest office building, Ingels and Liberty Property Trust have proven that combining an architect who’s not willing to settle for the mundane, with a developer who’s willing to take a little risk, can result in a unique piece of architecture that doesn’t bust the budget.


1200 Intrepid Ave., Philadelphia Naval Shipyard

1200 Intrepid reflected in one of its own windows.


1200 Intrepid Ave., Philadelphia Naval Shipyard


Architecture?… or Sculpture?

Earlier this summer, Philadelphia played host to Future Sensations,  a traveling exhibit celebrating the 350th anniversary of the French construction materials company Saint-Gobain, whose U.S. headquarters is in suburban Philadelphia.

Now, I don’t usually go in for these corporate PR productions (and I didn’t actually ‘go in’ to this one either), but I knew as soon as I saw the promos that I wanted to photograph it! Continue reading

The World’s Most Attractive Office Building

In my previous blog post I talked about photographing what the New York Times Magazine called ‘the millennium’s most important building,’ the Seagram’s Building.  This time, another of New York’s superlative buildings:  Frank Gehry’s IAC Building, called ‘the worlds most attractive office building’ by Vanity Fair magazine (April 2008).

My first exposure to the IAC Building, headquarters for Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorporation, was from the High Line:  a tantalizing splash of white against the grays and browns of the city.  I had to check it out!
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The Millennium’s Most Important Building

Whenever I get up to New York I try to work some ‘play’ time into my schedule.  For me, ‘play time’ in NYC involves cameras and architecture!  Whether it consists of wandering out from where ever I happen to be and seeing what there is to be seen, or heading out with a plan, there’s always great architecture to be found.

On my most recent trip earlier this year, I was on a mission…   my target:  what’s been called “the millennium’s most important building,”  Ludwig Mies van der Rohe‘s Seagram’s Building at 375 Park Ave.  I was certainly aware of the Seagram’s Bldg., but my travels had never taken me by it (I guess I don’t often travel in Park Ave. circles!).  I set out to rectify the oversight.

In addition to being perhaps “the millenniums most important,” it may also be it’s most understated.  It’s ultra-clean lines, and it’s dark edifice of ‘whiskey-brown’ tinted glass and bronze-clad structural steel combine to make the building appear to retreat from the eye.  And placed as it is on the rear-third of it’s site and fronted by an expansive plaza, the building sits almost hidden by it’s protruding neighbors until your approach reveals it’s presence.  Once in sight, it’s hard to pull your eye away.

The Seagram’s inspires contemplation.  Gazing on the building while strolling around it, and the serenity of the design encourages a stroll, the eye is repeatedly delighted as the simple lines evolve into one pleasing composition after another, and subtle details reveal themselves.  I found my stroll interrupted time and again as the building demanded that I dwell on it.
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1 Day in L.A.! … my whirlwind tour of architectural Los Angeles


On vacation visiting family in LA, I was able to ‘negotiate’ for a day on my own, and I was determined to make the most of it.  Los Angeles is a very large, architecturally rich city, and with only a very brief time available, I had to severely limit what I included in my ‘tour.’  I planned to hit only my personal highlights, while taking into account the proximity of the locations and L.A.’s notorious traffic, as well as twilight. Continue reading