Every now and then I run into an avocado colored refrigerator. Not literally, of course. But sometimes I’ll look at a building and my mind will conjure up an image of an old Hotpoint or Amana or Kelvinator straight out of an early ’70s Brady Bunch kitchen. Perfectly workable, but having seen better days.

  Stucco and strip windows with a ‘80s vibe.

Stucco and strip windows with a ‘80s vibe.

One Franklin Plaza had morphed into just such an avocado colored refrigerator. Completed in the early 1980s, the building at 16th and Race Streets in Philadelphia was built as the headquarters of Smith Kline French Pharmaceuticals, one of the predecessors to GlaxoSmithKline. [Glaxo vacated the aging building for a new headquarters at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. ] As a building, it was perfectly workable, but had seen better days.

  Facelift complete. Conversion to a residential tower has given One Franklin a new lease on life.

Facelift complete. Conversion to a residential tower has given One Franklin a new lease on life.

The new owners, PMC were determined to change that. As part of their plan to convert the 24-story building into rental apartments (with about 200,000 square feet of office space on the lower floors), a literal re-skinning was called for. That’s when my client, Apogee Enterprises, came into the picture.

  New windows from Apogee bring the building into the current century.

New windows from Apogee bring the building into the current century.

One of the interesting aspects of my work is the occasional insight it gives me into the breadth of U.S. industry and how different companies with different areas of expertise tend to rely on each other. Apogee specializes in architectural glass, framing and renovation of commercial buildings. While One Franklin Plaza’s distinctive shape would be maintained, brick would be replaced by glass—lots and lots of state-of-the-art, highly tempered glass.

Documenting the “before and after” of this architectural facelift necessitated careful planning and positioning. Coincidentally, I had already photographed the original building years before, so it became a fun challenge to match the angle of the shot I needed to take now to the one in the photo I took back then—a rare opportunity for a photographer’s lens to come full circle.Documenting the “before and after” of this architectural facelift necessitated careful planning and positioning. Coincidentally, I had already photographed the original building years before, so it became a fun challenge to match the angle of the shot I needed to take now to the one in the photo I took back then—a rare opportunity for a photographer’s lens to come full circle.

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