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United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania (United Fund Headquarters)
Few buildings better exemplify the complex interrelationship between structural and functional expression that characterized the best Philadelphia School designs than this small gem (see p. 132). Poured-in-place reinforced concrete is given different shapes and forms reflecting the exigencies of the irregular site, including its solar orientation (sun screens on the west facade, glazing alone on the north facade) and distinctive internal hierarchy (executive offices in the highly articulated concrete zone along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with views down its length and worker bees in the industrial loftlike spaces). A glass slit the height of the building on the southwest corner dramatizes the entrance. Even the hole in the parapet denotes the position of a roof-level café that gives the staff parkway views. Every decision was purposeful; nothing seems arbitrary and the result is a little building that seems big, appropriate to its place. In 1965, Romaldo Giurgola argued for a link between constructed order and urban fabric: “Order comes from a realistic apprehension of the facts that make the city—facts that extend from the historical experience of human events to the functional logic of its structures.” The recent decision to paint the exterior significantly affects the aesthetic integrity and suggests an appalling ignorance by its managers.
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