Deconstructing Penn Tower

Cross the South Street Bridge these days and you'll notice that Penn Tower is slowly shrinking.

Penn Tower, view from South Street Bridge

This building, winner of no architectural awards, has been a part of the West Philly skyline for four decades, first functioning as a Hilton hotel and slowly turning into an office building for the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania over the years. Late last year, the hospital started demolition work at the adjacent parking garage and over the last few months they've been demolishing the building one story at a time. According to HUP, the demolition process is moving slowly due to the location of the structure, surrounded by other hospital buildings and the Penn Museum. We're generally fascinated by demolition, and this is one that's worth seeing in person. For more details about the demolition, read this.

Parking garage is already gone

View from 34th Street

Cool view of a disappearing building

Like just about everyone, we're happy to see this crappy building coming down. Its replacement will be, at the very least, incredibly expensive. Per the Philadelphia Business Journal, HUP is planning a multi-phase $1.5B hospital tower which will contain 50 operating rooms, a new emergency room, and 700 patient beds, which will almost double the current hospital capacity. Foster + Partners, the company behind the famous Gherkin Building in London, has been retained as the lead architects for this project. We pulled some renderings off of Skyscraperpage forum, and while the new building will be a tremendous improvement over the Penn Tower, we're not sure we're entirely impressed with the design.

Rendering of the project, image from Skyscraperpage

Another rendering, also from Skyscraperpage

Something about the second rendering gives us the vibe of an Embassy Suites hotel built in the mid-1990s. Or are we way off base? Design aside, this project will mark a dramatic step forward for HUP's facilities and should result in an ability to care for many more patients in the coming years. This will also mean that the hospital will need to go on a hiring spree to adequately staff this new facility which is great news for the region. But before you start polishing your resume, recognize that this project will take many years to progress. Just how quickly it will move through its phases is unclear at this time, but it's probably safe to assume that construction will be a running theme here for many years to come.