Every P/A Awards jury reflects the design concerns of its time. In the early 1960s, the focus was on the relationships of buildings to each other and to adjoining open spaces. Urban design—dealing with physical form—was then emerging as a discipline distinct from statistics-driven city planning.
In bestowing a First Award on Philadelphia’s Municipal Services Building, the 1962 jury praised the way the structure provided for 500,000 square feet of city offices. But jurors were equally impressed with how it related to public plazas being opened up around the adjacent City Hall.
The proposed building was an 18-story tower with a cross-shaped plan. A lofty glass-walled lobby occupied a small street-level footprint, and office floors above cantilevered out four ways. A gracious stair led down to departments requiring the most public access on a concourse below, which was linked to underground transit.
While presenting an image of civic dignity, the building was clearly deferential to the massive City Hall. The relationship was underscored by cladding its curtainwalls in a similar gray granite. Its more than 1,600 identical stone-framed windows were prefabricated for insertion into the building’s frame.
When commenting on award-winning projects, P/A juries often expressed reservations about prevalent trends. That year, juror Arthur Drexler welcomed a turn away from projects that resembled “industrial artifacts,” toward works that “look like buildings, and look as if they were meant to last.” This building, completed in 1965, appears to have survived in fine condition, continuing to fulfill its original purpose.
1962 P/A Awards Jury
G. Holmes Perkins
Henry A. Pfisterer