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Art Institute of Philadelphia (WCAU Studio)

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WCAU Studio
1931–1932, Harry Sternfeld, associated with Gabriel Roth; 1983 renovated, Kopple Sheward and Day. 1620 Chestnut St.
  • (© George E. Thomas)

In the 1920s, radio stations became the hot building of the second media age, supplanting the newspaper office of the first media age. Here Sternfeld clad the facade with a material that the newspapers described as “blue movie glass”—apparently crushed blue glass in a stucco base that sparkled with changing light; it has since been painted blue. Sternfeld bisected the facade with a great lighted tower (now much shortened) that flickered as if emanating radio waves, while brushed aluminum and bronze ornaments in an Aztec vein flared to either side; the lower-level ornament was added in the 1983 renovation. Two other radio stations can be found in the neighborhood, marking the westward march of media to the new center of the city around Rittenhouse Square. At 1619 Walnut Street was KYW's studio (1937), designed in a tough industrial modern with yellow brick piers framing panels of dark stone that screened the studios. The facade failure in 2010 led to the removal of the stone slabs. The lobby with its polished marble walls and indirect lighting shows that Tilden and Register had absorbed the meaning of Howe and Lescaze's PSFS ( PH46). It has since been converted to a restaurant. Farther west at 2212 Walnut is WPEN ( PH102).

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas


What's Nearby


George E. Thomas, "Art Institute of Philadelphia (WCAU Studio)", [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 2

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, George E. Thomas, with Patricia Likos Ricci, Richard J. Webster, Lawrence M. Newman, Robert Janosov, and Bruce Thomas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 96-97.

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