Society Hill Townhouse I

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

One of Philadelphia’s most dramatic post-World War II urban redevelopments, I.M. Pei’s Society Hill Complex encompasses 7.6 acres and includes three residential towers and 37 townhouses. The 1960s complex knit together the city’s most historic neighborhood – Independence Hall is mere blocks away – while imbuing the urban fabric with vibrancy and residential density near the Delaware Riverfront. Today, this midcentury modern complex remains a thriving residential community in the heart of Philadelphia’s Old City.

In 2010, k YODER design completed its first of several town house renovations within the complex. The Society Hill Town House Renovation was designed to respect the clarity of Pei’s original floor plan, preserve the iconic central circular stair, and incorporate 21stcentury technology and amenities. The design took liberties with spatial organization within the context of Pei’s architecture and the home’s compact footprint.

The renovation demonstrates livable modernism for a young family. Period restoration was avoided; instead, the house was revitalized within its midcentury context. The design team took inspiration from Pei’s original design documents.

The renovation removed interior partitions to create improved connectivity between rooms and expansive views to the outdoors. The enclosed galley kitchen was opened to the rear dining room and front breakfast room to unify the ground floor. Wall-mounted cabinetry and aluminum wall panels visually connect the kitchen and dining areas, while durable terrazzo flooring adds continuity. The reinterpreted breakfast room light cove continues the horizontal datum created by the front window and brick garden walls. Reconfiguring the third floor into a master suite highlights an original ribbon window, while adding modern-day amenities such as a walk-through dressing closet and spa-like master bath. Organization for toys and electronics integrates thoughtfully within custom cabinetry and behind sliding wall panels. A burnished metal hearth accents an original fireplace in the living room. Color and light enhance the design. LED light coves visually create the illusion of larger spaces, such as in the home’s powder rooms. The aluminum wall between the kitchen and dining area captures and reflects the red brick exterior while visually connecting past and present.

The renovation retained Pei’s grand design gestures while updating the Society Hill Town House for modern life and a new family. The 3,200-square-foot residential project was completed in 2010.

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