The Curtis Atrium

Keystone Property Group | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Curtis, an historic mixed-use Philadelphia high rise sits prominently in Old City, sitting aside landmarks Independence Hall to the east and Washington Square to the south. Constructed in 1910 as the headquarters of The Curtis Publishing Company, the Edgar Seeler design takes cues from the Beaux-Arts style displaying a red brick façade with details and ornamentation made of white Vermont marble.

The footprint inhabits an entire city block, and the original design, considered to be progressive at the time, sought to enhance all areas with access to natural light, ventilation and views to the outside. Light and air was brought into the core of building by way of an open-air central courtyard, which was also used as a carriage (and later vehicular) entrance for shipping and receiving. A renovation in the 1980’s converted this outdoor space to indoor space: a skylight enclosed the volume at the top, 20 ft. tall artificial palm trees populated the space, and a large terraced Italian marble fountain located on axis with the new pedestrian entrance were the introduced modifications.

Starting in 2014, VMA was asked to re-imagine the atrium, to address the oddly proportioned space, improve event functionality and poor lighting conditions, and to overall encourage visitors to stay. A series of phased improvements include the introduction of a classical order with Corinthian columns and a proportional entablature wrapping the perimeter, four armatures each befitted with a “C” at the apex spanning 57’ in the north to south direction, LED lighting, acoustical treatments, and dual monumental marble staircases flanking the fountain. Each project increased the historic grandeur of the interior with alterations that respect the restrained regality of the exterior. Once a loading dock, the redesigned atrium space evokes both the history and dignity of a past era, and is a building amenity appealing to residents, employees and visitors alike.


  • "Reinventing the Curtis for Millennials (and Some Boomers Too)" by Dees Stribling. Bisnow Philadelphia, 21 January 2015.
  • "Curtis Center Will Be a ‘Central Hub’ for Washington Square" by Lauren Mennen. The Philadelphia Inquirer, 12 January 2015.
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Size: 20,360 sf
Budget: $2.4 million


Architecture, Interior Design

The Curtis Atrium

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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