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  • Writer's pictureVenture Philly Group

I.M. Pei: Philly's Architectural Connection to the Louvre in Paris

Did you know that the architect who designed the iconic glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris also designed 3 famous skyscrapers and some townhouses in Philadelphia? Society Hill is one of the Philly’s most beautiful and sought after neighborhoods today. But it wasn’t always like that. I.M. Pei’s work helped revitalize the area and elevate the neighborhood literally and figuratively.

Who is I.M. Pei?

I.M. Pei was one of the most renowned architects in the world. His connection to Philadelphia began when he studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. He didn’t finish his degree there, but he later returned to the city the design some of the most iconic buildings we have in Philadelphia. His designs are modern, clean and sharp. He’s also well-known for designing the East wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Pei’s Designs in Society Hill:

The famous architect designed the 3 Society Hill Towers and 37 surrounding townhouses.

  • The Society Hill Towers a 30-story high condominiums with 614 total units in the three buildings and they sit on 5 acres on South Second Street between Walnut and Spruce Streets. They overlook Penn’s Landing and the Delaware River.

  • The 37 townhouses are in 5 clusters in the area surrounding the towers. They’re grouped around a circular driveway with a pool and sculpture. The brick townhomes have a modern design with arched entryways and each one looks out to its own private courtyard.


The History of Society Hill: From Dilapidated to Desirable

In the 1950s and 60s, Society Hill was a crumbling neighborhood that was infested with rodents because of the Food Distribution Center along Dock Street. Edmund Bacon (who is actually the actor Kevin Bacon’s father), was the director of the City Planning Commission. He led a revitalization effort to change this. He started by moving the Food Distribution Center to South Philly and made room for the modern Society Hill Towers and townhomes. The towers were completed in 1964.

With the help of Pei and other renowned architects, Society Hill went from being rundown and deteriorated to being an upscale residential area with cobblestone streets just steps from the historic birthplace of America. The new modern architecture mixed with the historic homes came together in the perfect mixture to turn the neighborhood into one of the most desirable in the city.


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