Skip to content Skip to footer

The Best Urban Architect in Philadelphia

Whether you’re building a new home, renovating your current one or looking for an architect to design your commercial space, the city of Philadelphia is full of incredible architecture firms.

As the city’s built environment continues to change, architects are re-envisioning how to create spaces that are more sustainable and innovative. Here are the best urban architects in Philadelphia that are working on some of the most important projects across the city.

Romaldo Giurgola

Romaldo Giurgola was one of the most prolific architects of Philadelphia’s modern era. His firm Mitchell/Giurgola was responsible for several high-profile buildings in the city, including the Penn Mutual Tower, United Way building and Liberty Bell Pavilion.

Although he was a proponent of the “Philadelphia School,” which spawned Louis Kahn, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, Giurgola’s designs were often rooted in a humanist philosophy that valued contextualism over rigid modernism. He argued that order should be the result of participation in the environment, and not the imposition of abstract forms.

Giurgola’s first major design, the Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, reflected this approach. It strayed from strict modernist tenets in three ways: it was consonant with the aesthetic preoccupation with aviation, flight and space travel of the time; it broke with the use of rigid forms; and, most importantly, it incorporated people into the architectural design process. It was a significant departure for the modernist movement, and it is now an iconic design for Mitchell/Giurgola.

Louis Kahn

Kahn’s architectural career was long and hard-earned. His work during the Depression years was focused on low-cost public housing; he eventually developed his own distinctive style, which is more influenced by the International Style than other modern movements.

It was his sense of history and pure geometry that helped him to stand out, though it took him a while to develop his signature style. His back-to-the-basics approach was shaped by his time in Rome, where he visited ruins of ancient buildings and studied the effects of natural light on building design.

Ultimately, Kahn’s sensitivities to form, material, structure, and landscape came together to create buildings that remain indelibly influential. His legacy is reflected in this major retrospective, which is filled with architectural models, photographs, letters, and Kahn’s sophisticated pastel sketches.

There is much to admire here, but the show’s most striking feature is the wealth of material about Kahn himself. His calendar, box of pastels, and numerous models – including a twelve-foot-high model of the City Tower Project – offer a fascinating glimpse into his life and process.

George Howe

If 19th-century architect Frank Furness nudged Philadelphia into the modern movement, it was his apprentice George Howe who gave the city a final push. His work on the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society tower (more commonly called the PSFS building) was the first International Style skyscraper in America, and earned him worldwide recognition.

During his career, Howe also made significant contributions to the study of classical philology, especially through his work at the University of North Carolina. He introduced advanced philological studies into graduate training, and published anthologies of Greek and Latin literature in translation.

In 1757, he was assigned to the Royal American Army in Halifax, Nova Scotia as colonel of the 60th Regiment of Foot and commander of the 55th Regiment of Foot. He served with New Hampshire’s Robert Rogers and Connecticut’s Rufus and Israal Putnam, learning their war strategies. He was praised by William Pitt for his military brilliance.

William Bacon

During his tenure at the City Planning Commission, William Bacon pushed for modern, high-rise development and urban renewal projects that could transform Philadelphia. As a result, some of his most ambitious projects remain standouts today, including Penn Center and the original Love Park.

When it comes to designing your home, you want a Philadelphia architect that understands your tastes and can help make your vision a reality. With so many talented firms in the city, choosing the right one can be difficult.

We’ve narrowed down the choices to our top 10 residential architectural firms in Philadelphia, based on their reputation, years of experience and stellar, award-winning work. Whether you’re looking for a new build or an update, these architects are sure to impress.

    I agree that my submitted data is being collected and stored.