Residential Renovation Architects Philadelphia
The Franklin Residences
834 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
AIA Pennsylvania Preservation Award 2013
Starting in 2011, SPA has overseen an extensive interior and exterior renovation of this 730,000 square foot building. Original building details were restored, and subsequent interventions were removed and replaced with refined, modern elements. The exterior was carefully restored in close cooperation with the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Historic Commission. Restoration and detailing of the exterior include: new entires with custom detailing, relighting the iconic sign, installation and restoration of lighting fixtures, bronze detailing, cleaning stone and terra cotta, and improved signage.
Designed by Horace Trumbauer and located close to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Benjamin Franklin House opened in 1925 as a 1,200 room ultra-modern luxury hotel. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The Franklin gradually deteriorated during the 20th century, despite a renovation in the mid-1980s to convert it into a mixed use apartment and office building.
The new elements were designed to harmonize with the space, but to be of their own period, leaving the intentions of the original architect clear. The Lobby is now regularly used by the building’s residences as a gathering space.
The Franklin’s current mixed use program was not compatible with the original design as a grand hotel lobby. With many apparent issues in the lobby, an intervention was necessary. Mindful of the imposing ceiling and space, we introduced a free standing frosted glass wall and a polished, true-black granite reflecting pool to organize the space and create a strong focal point.
The opulent plaster ceiling is the culmination of Horace Trumbauer’s impressive design for the Lobby. The grandeur of the soaring space captivates and holds the gaze. The original ceiling colors were painted over during a previous renovation. Unable to find any documentation of the original colors, the design team consulted with a historical preservation specialist to create a new paint scheme that harmonized with the updated interventions in the lobby.
During the design of the new entry doors, it became apparent that some type of ornamentation was necessary. Rather than finding an off-the-shelf, generic tile, Stanev Potts chose a rosette from Trumbauer’s ceiling to study, scale down and re-interpret in bronze. The multi-step process was remarkably direct and satisfying: From a photograph of the ceiling, we generated a 2-D drawing, which became a 3-D model used to 3-D print prototypes. The final version was printed to high resolution and moulded in rubber. Then, wax-casts of the original mould were packed in bronze casting medium to produce lost-wax copies which were patinated and inserted in the newly made bronze door frames. The firm worked closely with the foundry and finishing specialists to fabricate this essential, but unobtrusive, building detail.