Drexel was given a grant to help develop the recently acquired sites behind the One Drexel Plaza building on Market Street, as reported by The Triangle Oct. 24. This is terrific news. $5 million, however, isn’t that much when construction of a building is involved but it’s still nice to learn that the state of Pennsylvania is willing to help us develop the project.
The article also made mention of the new building to be constructed in the area in front of One Drexel Plaza. The building is going to be 20 stories high. If so, I’d like to point something out about the site this decision appears to be overlooking.
Namely, the site is directly in-line with the Cira Centre building when viewed looking northeast from Woodland Walk. I mention this because Drexel is the fortunate benefactor of the two most spectacular pedestrian level views of this building anywhere in the city.
The first is the one looking across the One Drexel Plaza parking lot from Market Street. The other is the one framed by the Gerri C. LeBow and Disque buildings when standing in the center of Drexel’s academic quad.
This latter view is nothing short of epic and one that makes the campus experience here at Drexel unlike any other. In fact, there isn’t anything that I know of in the archive of city planning that can compare to this phenomenon. This, in my opinion, is an inheritance relevant to the history of urbanism and urban design.
The site in discussion is enormous (a quarter of a city block by my estimate) and will contain the 20-story building. The building will completely obscure the view to the Cira Building seen from the quad. The library of architectural building types and forms, on the other hand, contains a plethora of options that would allow us to preserve this view and still meet the space planning requirements of the program.
It, no doubt, would involve a design that is more object-centered, but I believe this view has become an indispensable feature of the campus experience and merits a spirited response.
It would be a tragedy to discard this unique and fortunate condition of urban form. This sort of thing is rare in the world of urban development and could only happen under the most ideal circumstances. It appears this is a special time in Drexel’s history that will never be replicated. We should embrace this moment and make it part of our legacy.
Michael Hyatt is a Drexel alum of architecture and philosophy. He can be contacted at [email protected].