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Philadelphia, PA.
Awarded first prize by Philadelphia Athenaeum
facade iterations
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Hosted by the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Looking Forward was a conceptual architectural design competition which challenged architects, designers and artists to imagine an Athenaeum of the future. We posited a future era where Center City is dense with housing, young businesses, and award-winning schools and Philadelphia is a hub for innovation and design.
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As life has become increasingly virtual,  interest in physical artifacts, archived drawings, and preserved narratives flourishes. Philadelphians have made the Athenaeum reading rooms a home. Rather than restricting access, the Athenaeum adapted to accommodate new uses.  With the mission to preserve Philadelphia’s heritage still paramount, the archives were moved into a jewel-box-like underground vault, equipped with environmental controls and robotic, searchable filing systems. One tower holds Athenaeum academic functions and another its industrial and professional studio spaces. To accommodate its increased institutional role within the city, we present a greatly expanded and visible building, which supports the organization’s mission to disseminate useful knowledge and encourage access.
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entrance render
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The projects’s physical manifestation is a continuation of the experimental architecture flourishing in Philadelphia at the time of the original building’s construction. We embrace this spirit of innovation and present a literal “Ornament of Philadelphia”, a study of surface elaboration that demonstrates the Athenaeum’s enduring relevance as the steward of a locale’s history and artifacts, launching new creations into their own era.


"Their winning design, titled "Philadelphia Grotesque Revisited," imagines a pair of towers encased in a pattern of transparent triangles of glass, with green space underneath and an underground vault for the Athenaeum’s collections." ~ Alaina Mabaso

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