Monday, March 17, 2008

Breaking: Center City To Finally Get Its Sexy On (Architecturally Speaking) Via Awesome Winka Dubbeldam-Designed Unknot Tower of Condo/Hotel Hotness

The Unknot Tower designed by Winka Dubbeldam, Developed by CREI
Folks, this is big news — big news, we tell you — and on a number of levels.

So let’s ease into it.

- One: the location.

For a while now, we’ve been high on the virtues of Midtown Village, especially for a boutique hotel project. And rightly so — it’s ripe for a cool property. It’s one of the most vibrant areas of the city. And while 12th and Chestnut may not be, say, 13th and Sansom just yet — it’s only a block and a half away. I.e. it’s a very smart place to invest in, as it will be thoroughly rad in no time.

So this development looks to be the catalyst that Market East has been waiting for… the development that kick starts the extension of the vibrancy of 13th Street further east.

- Two: the building. (Duh).

Are you kidding? It’s going to be unreal. We just wish we had more renderings to show you just how sexy this thing is. Oh wait, we do.
The Unknot Tower designed by Winka Dubbeldam, Developed by CREIBang.

27 stories of boom-city. It rises to its highest point as it moves back from Chestnut Street toward Sansom Street.

Three views of The Unknot Tower designed by Winka Dubbeldam, Developed by CREIWe love bold architecture. But we love it even more when it seamlessly fits into the urban streetscape
… and in Philadelphia, accomplishing as much is no small feat.

And the fact that it is going to hold retail, a restaurant and a hotel in addition to condos means it is going to be readily accessible to the people. How refreshing. This could be the best highly accessible new building in Philadelphia in decades.

- Three: the architect.

You may not have ever heard of her before but that’s all about to change. Winka Dubbeldam is for real. Men’s Vogue recently said of her, “Winka Dubbeldam redefines architecture for the digital age.”

And Unknot is one of her hottest buildings yet.

Lucky for Philadelphia, she’s a Professor of Architecture at the Penn School of Design. And the progressive local development firm CREI has taken a liking to her skills and subsequently hired her to design two of their residential condo towers they’re building in Northern Liberties. One, American Loft, is almost complete. The other, Q, has yet to break ground.

Regarding American Loft, a little illustrative anecdote about how Winka designs and deals with problematic (read bullshit) zoning, as she faced in Philadelphia.
The [American Loft] building, by architect Winka Dubbeldam of New York City's Archi-Tectonics, looks most distinctive close to the ground, because the sloped base appears to hover in the air.

This aspect came in response to a major design challenge. The zoning envelope mandated that the structure stand on concrete columns over an open parking area. With ground-level parking, passers-by would have glimpsed unattractive views of cars, rather than feeling any sense of connection to the building.

Dubbeldam therefore sloped the parking area; cars enter the space at street level, proceeding downhill until they're one storey below grade. As they go, they pass over a grassy carpet sprouting from porous pavers. Dubbeldam thought greenery would make the concrete look friendlier.
We’d think so too.

And this is what Men’s Vogue had to say:
[Winka Dubbeldam] is a leading light among a new generation of digitally driven practitioners who came of age in an era of flowcharts and 3-D modeling software. "We're not into stylistic things," she says, "but deriving form from performance."

The culmination of this heady approach—which shifts the traditional emphasis of architecture from form to process—is seen in the emerging Unknot Tower in Philadelphia, a breathtaking triangular glass building (luxury downtown hotel combined with apartments and retail) that folds in on itself.
Yeah. That "Unknot Tower in Philadelphia"… that’s the building that going up at 1122-1128 Chesnut Street.

CREI asked Winka to pull out all the stops because they had their eyes on something special. And she obliged.

- Four: the hotel.

Did we mention that the 145-room boutique hotel is going to be operated by GHM Hotels? GHM Hotels, the International premier brand of hotels that currently has 14 ultra-luxurious properties around the world — in places like Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Phuket, and Milan — yet only one other location in the U.S, the ridiculously sexy Setai in South Beach??

Well it is. That’s how hot this building is. CREI could have never lured GHM to Philadelphia with just any development. It had to be amazing. And Dubbeldam delivered.

- Five: the restaurant.

Continuing with the very upscale and superior theme, the restaurant for the hotel has already been secured and it’s a five-star special. Monsieur
Joël Robuchon will be doing the signature restaurant: one of his L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon restaurants — his third in the United States (New York and Vegas have the others).

The l’atelier concept was at the forefront of the movement to reconnect the chef and the kitchen with the diner, a movement that is just now picking up mainstream recognition — thanks to, in large part, Sir David Chang and his Momofukin’.
Dissolving the boundaries between kitchen and dining room, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, whose name refers to an artist’s studio, allows a dynamic interaction between chef and diner, yielding direct access to the creative process. Seats are arranged around a V-shaped bar that looks directly into the kitchen; what was once behind-the-scenes becomes center stage.

A kitchen opened on a circular bar with 36 seats that allows clients to follow the service, to watch the succession of dishes, and to compose their own meal according to their appetite, as the menu offers all the great classics to taste in small, tapas-style portions.
This is a shot of L'Atelier New York (left) and L'Atelier Hong Kong (right).

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon New York and Hong KongOk. To summarize:

1. The location is borderline perfect.

2. The architect is well on her way to being a veritable starchitect.

3. The building design is straight-up astonishing.

4. The hotel is an international luxury brand that doesn’t even have a hotel in New York, Vegas or LA and they’re going to open one of their hot-as-shit properties here, in the Illa…

5. The restaurant is slated to be not just any five-star restaurant, but one from a world-renowned chef and restaurateur, the seventh L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. #7 will be at this project in Philadelphia. The other six are located in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, London, Las Vegas and New York respectively — exactly the type of metropolitan company Philadelphia wants to keep.

So in case you were wondering, yea… you could say the Dubbeldam-designed, CREI-developed, GHM-managed Unknot Tower and Hotel coming to 12th and Chestnut is a proverbial winner for Philadelphia.

This project is so good for the city’s image, City Hall should practically be subsidizing it.

future site of the unknot tower by winka dubbeldamAnd guess what?? No NIMBYs (to our knowledge) are standing in the project's way. Two buildings will have to be demolished (above), but they're totally expendable. Thankfully, the Preservation Alliance doesn't object. Either does the East of Broad Improvement Association. EBIA is actually all for the project. Moreover, parking is going to buried underground and CREI has already received approval to begin construction.

Does this all sound too good to be true? Actually, yes. Come to think of it, we very well could have dreamt all of this up… on account of smoking peyote for six straight days.

But shit — we sure as hell hope not. That would be heartbreaking.

CREI: Please go ahead and break ground on this project, like, immediately.

Approved Development Would Bring in Residential, Tourist Dollars [ Philadelphia Metro ]
Winka Dubbeldam Redefines Architecture [ Men's Vogue ]
American Loft Building [ Design Build Network ]
Archi-tectonics [ Official Site ]
CREI: Creating Real Estate Innovations [ Official Site ]
GHM Hotels [ Official Site ]
Joël Robuchon [ Official Site ]

Hotel Hotwires on The Illadelph


MKinCenterCity said...

OMG! Finally, Philadelphia is on its way! Give me a shovel, I'll go break ground for Winka Dubbledam! Finally an architecht with a pair of balls and no apology for designing for the 21st century! You go Winka!

Let this be the beginning of something amazing for our wonderful town.

Morty said...

Don't want to burst the bubble, but among the real estate community CREI is known more as big spenders than solid executioners. In other words, show me construction starting.

That said, I wish them nothing but luck.

Dubin said...

I'm all for it, but this cracks me up:

"We're not into stylistic things," [Winka] says, "but deriving form from performance."

amanda said...

If you think that this building "Fits in with the urban streetscape"? you are smoking some crack my friends. This thing looks about as odd and obtrusive as Ghery's Museo in Bilbao.

Team Illadelph said...

Actually, Amanda, we have to completely disagree. Just because it looks different than its surrounding buildings does not mean it doesn’t or won’t fit into the city streetscape.

Consider the following: unlike the Bilbao Guggenheim, which sits isolated from its urban grid and neighboring buildings on the banks of the Nervión River, the Unknot Tower will be an in-fill development between a five-story condo building and low-rise retail on a densely developed primary street in Philadelphia’s burgeoning East of Broad neighborhoods.

The Unknot Tower will be only three or four stories tall at its front, facing Chestnut Street, thereby continuing the low-rise nature of the block. The tower’s height is actually set back from Chestnut Street, the primary street, rising as the building gets closer to Sansom, the secondary street.

Moreover, the tower’s parking will be submerged underground and accessed from the secondary street, so as to not blight the streetscape with an unsightly parking pedestal and to not mar or interrupt the pedestrian flow by inserting unnecessary curb-cuts onto the primary street.

Add the fact that the building will have ground level retail fronting Chestnut Street, in addition to a restaurant, spa and hotel, and you have another requisite quality marked “yes” when evaluating whether Unknot will be a good addition to the streetscape and the pedestrian environment of the area.

And the Unknot will also have an engaging glass façade, allowing pedestrians to see people and activity inside, which is a much more inviting and urban-friendly design feature than having fortress-like cold, blank walls stare at passers-by and pedestrians like you have at the Kimmel Center and the Bilbao Guggenheim.

So that's why we said (and still feel) that the Unknot Tower "seamlessly fits into the urban streetscape".