Most cities have regulations that dictate how high architects can build. Philadelphia, though, may be the only city where architects have to worry more about the spirit of a vindictive statue than municipal code. As Foster + Partners starts to build a proposed $1.2 billion, 59-story tower for Comcast in Philadelphia’s City Center district, we have to wonder, what about the curse?
For years, no one in Philadelphia had a better view than William Penn. Immortalized in a bronze above Philadelphia’s city hall, the city’s founder towered above the city, per an agreement that no building would rise higher. In the spring of 1987, after the city loosened its height restrictions, the first Liberty Place skyscraper moved in next door, topping Billy’s likeness by almost 400 feet. Soon after, the city’s previously successful sports teams began to falter, losing championship after championship.
The curse was broken in 2007, when Philadelphia’s first Comcast Center skyscraper was erected, designed by New York-based Robert A.M. Stern Architects. A small statuette of Penn was placed on the highest beam of the 58-story tower, the tallest building in Philadelphia. The Phillies won the World Series the next year.
In 2017, Foster + Partners’s design for a mixed-use skyscraper, with office space, restaurants, and fitness facilities and a 200-room Four Seasons hotel, will open as the tallest structure in America outside of New York and Chicago. The company has indicated that it won’t be taking any chances with Philadelphia sports fans’ hearts. A spokesperson told local news stations the statue will be moving to new digs atop of Foster’s Comcast Innovation and Technology Center when it opens.