When DeSimone Automotive Group came to us with their plans for a new mixed-use high-rise building that would not only be an apartment complex, but also a car dealership—we were intrigued.
The result? DeSimone Tower, a 15-story structure with a car dealership on the ground floor, three levels of parking, and eleven levels of housing. The modern high-rise also includes a café, fitness center, yoga studio, bicycle parking, site-specific public art installations, and a 1,866 square foot roof deck, giving residents gorgeous views of the waterfront and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
Inspired by the model of other urban car dealerships around the world, we conceptualized a vertically-oriented design. The building takes the form of a simple rectangular mass to maximize usage of the 60 foot by 150 foot site, but is deconstructed to diminish its scale and accentuate the various programmatic elements within. A key feature of the building’s design is a six-story glass base that acts essentially as a display case for all the cars contained within the building. In unique moments, the cars are allowed to penetrate the façade and are displayed proudly on marquees above pedestrians on the streets below.
Given the shared boundary with the adjacent property and the projected height of the building, our team explored strategies for easing what would be a more than 100-foot-high blank façade. The southern façade of the building was stepped back from the property line as the building rises to ensure that tenants will always have access to natural light. As the façade was sculpted, the idea of a faceted panelized cladding system began to emerge.
The final design is a fifteen-story, 140,055 SF building. With a two-story car dealership at the base and 11 residential floors rising up to a green roof above, the building will be a prominent contemporary addition to Delaware Avenue. The dealership showroom and two double-height levels of above-ground parking are enclosed in a glazed curtain wall. At the parking levels, the vehicles are displayed on triple-stacked parking racks and are visible from the street below. Above the parking levels, the façade transitions to a system of precast concrete panels. A range of double-height panel widths and shapes yields a highly dynamic undulating façade. The south façade is covered in dark grey aluminum cladding panels, which are bookended at the southwest and southeast corners of the building by a similarly colored ironspot brick.
In keeping with the car-centric design, a vehicle catwalk floats above the space of the showroom and emerges through the glass curtain wall on Delaware Avenue as a pedestal for showpiece cars. Inside, most of the columns are eliminated in the showroom to create an expansive open space and to ease the movement of the vehicles. This is achieved through the use of three massive girders to transfer the structural loads above the fourth floor. The building is also equipped with 2 car elevators.
While the rhythm of the undulating concrete panels is maintained, the facade becomes more opaque on the western face of the building to conceal the vertical circulation and mechanical systems, which are clustered at the western edge of the building.
Within close proximity of the Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing and other waterfront destinations, DeSimone Tower will be a vital part of the larger transformation of the Central Delaware River Waterfront into an active community for both residents and tourists. The inclusion of a ground floor cafe within the space of the dealership itself will produce a unique retail consumer experience and enliven an underutilized portion of the urban corridor. At the top of the building, a private tenant lounge and 1,866 SF roof deck affords residents sweeping views of the waterfront and the Ben Franklin Bridge beyond.