What makes Bridge unique? To find out, we went right to the source. We talked with the project’s architects, GLUCK+ Principals Peter L. Gluck and Thomas Gluck, and asked them about the nuances of Bridge’s structure and design.
Q. What inspired Bridge’s design?
A. Bridge isn’t just a name. This building bridges the gap between Old City and the larger infrastructure of the Ben Franklin Bridge and highways beyond, so we wanted the building to scale nicely from both perspectives. The Race Street façade intentionally carries through the low-rise, residential scale of Old City and transforms it into a new residential scale as the building meets the bridge. Every aspect of the building takes cues from that role: the windows, the angles, the fifth floor terrace, the building materials, everything.
Q. How can windows act as a bridge?
A. Look closely at the windows, and you’ll see they’re not all the same. On the lower floors of the building on Race Street facade, the windows are designed to mimic the old double-hung character of the neighborhood. The windows are inset between walls to feel like a natural neighbor to the building just west of Bridge.
As you move east and upward on the building, the windows slowly shift—they become wider, more open, and more modern—more like the familiar glass high-rises in Center City. This look is designed to fit with the Ben Franklin Bridge. It’s bold. Confident. Industrial. Altogether, the building feels cohesive, but there’s a lot of nuance that helps it work as a transition building between two very different neighborhoods.
Q. So, is that idea of bridging two neighborhoods also behind the unusual angles?
A. Yes. That idea really is behind every aspect of this building. The faceting of the building—those angles you’re talking about—they actually reflect the light differently as the building rises, and that makes the building appear smaller from certain angles. That’s part of what helps it fit in with Old City, while also holding its own against the massive scale of the bridge behind.
Another good example of that bridge effect in the fifth floor terrace. From some angles, the building looks like two different buildings: the bottom four floors, and the floors above the terrace. So the bottom part of the building feels like a natural extension of the other buildings on Race Street—four floors high, punched in windows, etc. Then, above the terrace, the rest of the building fits in with the Ben Franklin Bridge—big, bold, and beautiful.
Q. The building is aiming for LEED Gold Certification. How does that impact the design?
A. There are lots of things about the building that make it more efficient and sustainable. Take, for example, the green roof space. Both the fifth floor terrace and the roof will be beautifully landscaped. The terrace is even going to have full-size trees. And not only are these green spaces great for residents, they also capture storm water and eliminate run-off, and in turn the rain helps keep the plants watered. It’s really a win-win.
Another key element of this building is the VRF mechanical system. It’s a super advanced, efficient heating and cooling system that some units run heat and others run air conditioning at the same time. And it actually uses the heat that’s expelled by air conditioners to run the heater, and vice versa. So it’s great for residents, who can turn on the heat as early in the year as they want without waiting for the whole building’s heat to switch on. But it’s also great for the environment, because it wastes less energy overall.
Q. Do all these beautiful angles and thoughtful details and sustainable elements make the building tough to actually build?
A. In some ways, yes. It’s not a standard cookie-cutter building. But we also pride ourselves on making our designs buildable. We’re not just an architecture firm, we’re a design-build firm. So we don’t just design buildings, we also build them; and the combination of both is our specialty. So we know how to make a project look unique, while giving it a simple, sensible structure underneath.
Q. What’s been the best thing about this project so far?
A. The team. No question. Our team—developer, contractor, and architect—is very cohesive. And that’s a rare thing in this business. This isn’t one of those situations where the architect hands off designs and just hopes they get built right. We have a resident architect on-site, working with the contractors every day. Everyone involved really cares about this project. And it shows.