Until now, America's most glamorous tech companies have largely been housed in suburban oases, velvet prisons that offer employees endless supplies of vitamin water and protein bars, but require lengthy commutes in company caravans from San Francisco to the cluttered highway strips of Silicon Valley. There's plenty of interaction inside the bubble, but hardly any with the wider world.
With its new 1,121-foot-tall loft building, designed by Britain's Norman Foster, Comcast fashions a rebuttal to all that. Think of the towering waterfall of glass that was unveiled Wednesday as a skyscraper version of the great, light-filled factory lofts of the early 20th century, but wedged into the unpredictable heart of Center City atop the region's densest transit hub. In the six years since Comcast embedded itself in one of the city's more straight-laced corporate towers, it has done a complete 180: Its second high-rise should be a glorious vertical atelier where employees can make a mess while they invent and build stuff.
In short, this is what the future of the growing Comcast campus at 18th and Arch Streets will look like: Suits to the east, hipster engineers in cutoffs and flip-flops to the west.
Yes, Foster & Partners' glass tower will be the tallest building in Philadelphia when it opens in 2017, the eighth tallest in the United States, the tallest building outside New York and Chicago. But its height, surgically enhanced by the presence of a new Four Seasons hotel on the top 12 floors, is hardly the most interesting thing about the $1.2 billion mixed-use tower.