Cecil Baker + Partners was charged with the task of transforming the Western Union Building, in the Washington Square West neighborhood of Philadelphia, from a vacant low-rise loft structure into a high-rise condominium project. The existing 1922 building, a 4-story heavy-masonry Art Deco building, was originally designed to support additional stories. Along with the acquisition of an adjacent property at the corner of the block, the potential for a large-scale development emerged.

The challenge of the project was to respect the existing building, create an addition that did not fall into the trap of historic replication, and to create an appropriately-scaled neighborhood landmark. The solution includes an elegant 8-story glass box that floats above the original Western Union home. The two share the same façade plane, separated by the deep shadow line of condominium terraces at the level just above the existing cornice. A new 12-story vertical tower, anchoring the corner of the site, counterbalances these stacked elements. Primarily clad in copper-colored metal panels and black brick, this tower dematerializes into a weightless glass corner as it approaches the sky.

The composition of different volumes allowed for a variety of plans for the 100 condominium units. Multiple units have expansive terraces, and many units are designed to include dens and offices that borrow daylight from the rooms at the perimeter, a benefit of the deep building footprint. Along with the 100 condominium units, the project includes an upscale restaurant at the ground floor, a pharmacy, and mechanized parking for 100 cars in the basement.

The Residences at the Western Union Building was a 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania 2010 Commonwealth Award winner.