Hamilton Court Amenities Building is a new 9,200 square foot amenity building in Philadelphia, PA, designed to complement the existing Hamilton Court Apartments. Located within the complex’s historic courtyard, the project was envisioned to be a transparent and modern building that stands in contrast to the surrounding 1901 apartments’ architecture. The Hamilton Court Amenities Building underwent an extensive design process, transforming from the initial concept of a glass box, into an elegant geometric transparent center that supports the residents, tenants, and neighbors of the Hamilton Court Apartments.
Located in West Philadelphia on the University of Pennsylvania campus, Hamilton Court has become a hub for apartment living. The client approached the design team with the challenge of developing an amenity building that would accommodate retail tenants, a fitness center, and a pool for the apartment tenants, in addition to serving residents of the 105-unit apartment complex. Wanting to create a separate structure so as to not disturb the interiors of the existing buildings, the courtyard was selected as the site.
As the University City area of West Philadelphia is particularly competitive, the client wanted the amenity building to be architecturally distinctive in order to attract tenants and residents. The client had a specific vision in mind – a glass box similar to the Apple Store 5th Avenue in New York. Their desire was to create a contrasting language against the historic Hamilton Court design while offering transparency to highlight the interior program. Our design team loved the idea, but decided to take it a step further. We preserved the notion of a glass box and opted to cover portions of it with a metal facade (known as the veil) that would also have elements of transparency yet be a tangible surface.
The massing of the building is a rectilinear volume encased in a glass skin, while the veil is a metal facade that sits atop the second-floor program and lightly “touches” the ground. The veil lightens the mass of the building and still allows for the transparency the client originally wanted. It creates a new language within the design; angular surfaces – which are not found in the surrounding context.
The envelope of the building makes the Hamilton Court Amenity Building stand out while contributing to its purpose as an amenity venue. The design enabled the maximum amount of rentable floor area on the ground floor, with a large front glass garage-style door that will allow for an easy flow of activity and potential seating for a café to spill onto the sidewalk in nice weather.
In an effort to keep the structure for the veil as elegant as possible, the curtain wall was leveraged to perform multiple tasks. Utilizing modified curtain wall solar shade attachments, the two-story curtain wall serves both the exterior fenestration for the building as well as a continuous exoskeleton for support structure back to the veil. The veil itself serves as a whole building shading device, dramatically reducing the energy load on the all-glass building. Perforated aluminum was selected for the building’s exterior skin because of the material’s light weight and rust-resistance. The size and arrangement of the skin’s perforated openings were carefully selected to allow enough light in and maintain views to the outside, while also providing adequate sun shading.
The amenity building hosts a 2,000-square-foot rooftop terrace which features a lounge pool, a sundeck with chaise and lounge seating, an oversized hot tub, fire pits, a grilling area and dining tables, an outdoor gaming area, and landscaped greenery throughout. A gym on the second floor features top-of-the-line cardio and strength training machines, a fully equipped weight section, a separate yoga room, and floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
The ground floor, dedicated to retail space, is enclosed in a glazed curtain wall, while the veil appears to “wrap” the second floor. Its elongated angular form extends and engages with the streetscape by extruding beyond the property line. By protruding slightly above the sidewalk, the most visible streetscape, the veil becomes a visual icon, intriguing passerby to engage with the building and area.
Much more dynamic than a simple box, the result offers transparency, privacy, and a modern design language that fosters engagement with Hamilton Court residents and neighbors. The interplay of light and shadow, glass and steel, create continuously changing views and patterns depending upon season and time of day.