As we inch closer to the day when the skyline-topping Comcast Technology Center will be up and running at full capacity, the question on everybody’s mind is:
What does this gargantuan chrome zipper lording over our city look like on the inside?
On Thursday morning, Billy Penn accompanied a group on a preview tour led by none other than Brian L. Roberts, Comcast chairman and CEO (and future resident of the CTC’s 60th floor).
There are currently 999 employees situated in the building — the 1000th is moving in next Monday to some fanfare, Roberts said. A date for when the space will fully open to the public has not yet been announced.
Our early peek covered Floors 6, 9, 27 and 30. Here’s how it all went down (or shall we say up?).
The first thing you notice when you step inside the lobby — which somehow manages to blend a feeling of warmth and hospitality with cutting-edge — is not the escalator right in front of you, but what’s soaring overhead.
It’s words. Various phrases composed by text-based artist Jenny Holzer zoom across the high in vertical lines, fast enough that they glimmer with the speed, but slow enough that the messages can be paid attention to.
When we visited, the artwork wasn’t up yet, so these maximized notifications were random. At one point they appeared to say, “Roses are red. Life is a dance. We should dance,” which is… a nice sentiment you sent a variation of to your crush in middle-school.
Holzer’s cyber poetry will probably be more thought-provoking.
The other art in the lobby is the “Exploded Paradigm” sculpture by Conrad Shawcross, which is an abstract hodgepodge of reflective fragments of steel sandwiched between two escalators. It screams “This is a techy place with a refined sense of cool!” is probably the point.
Vernick Coffee Bar
On the lobby mezzanine, right before the high-tech access swipe-ins (like what SEPTA Key turnstiles might look like if they were actually modern) is Vernick Coffee Bar. It’s the casual sister to Vernick Fish, the high-end restaurant coming to the building’s ground floor.
The cafe space is pearly white and has long communal light wood tables and stools, accompanied by faux plants and industrial lights.
It’s all going to be accessible to the public — and the public is encouraged to enjoy this privilege.
Per Roberts, one of the goals of the “urban campus” shared between the Comcast Center and the Comcast Technology Center is connection, both to each other and to the city at large.
A giant orb
The most notable part of the lobby, however, is a colossal, geodesic ivory-hued orb called “The Universal Sphere” that is reminiscent of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth in Orlando, Florida and the Death Star in a galaxy far, far away.
If none of those references do it for you, just picture a golf ball and multiply by a million.
You won’t be bored waiting for the elevator
When elevator doors slide open on each floor (which all operate with nifty “destination dispatch” optimization tech), there are large orange pegs to the side where you can play around and make designs on a porous cork-board of sorts while waiting.
On the ninth floor, the LOVE sign was created out of these pegs on one panel, and another panel had a heart. Aw.
Open office to the max
Each floor has collaborative, wood-floored workspaces (referred to as “huddle spaces”) set up and stacked in sets of “three-story” lofts, which are supposed to give an “airy, open feel,” said Roberts.
There are no private offices, though there are swanky phone booths complete with desktop computers, and conference rooms with mod furniture and whiteboards.
All of the conference rooms vary in color schematics and furniture layout, as do the collaborative spaces and common areas, which tend to parallel the artwork chosen for the floor.
There are “desks,” but they’re situated in an open floor plan and can be controlled to slide up or down. In other words, you can choose between a standing desk or a sitting desk at the push of a button. Neato.
Themed floors with local art
Each floor has a theme and a sculpture serving as a centerpiece that has been commissioned by a local artist — or artist with ties to Philadelphia.
The sixth floor, for example, has funky wall art by Jason Andrew Turner and an equally funky skateboard ramp by Leslie Friedman. The ramp has a “Philly Scrabble and stamp” motif (think Scrabble words spelling out J-A-W-N, Septa token stamps and a Liberty Bell stuffed with a basketball).
Another floor has blue-tinted graffiti by Glossblack on the walls, and another has prints of different “Comcast cities.” Per Roberts, all of these themes were up to the discretion of the artists.
When hunger strikes
Comcast is all about keeping their employees well-nourished.
Along with a variety of snack stations stocked with gourmet trail mix, each floor also has a kitchen pantry for all to use, with a fridge, a microwave, a chilled cellar, a sink and a Nespresso machine.
A La Colombe coffee station is situated across a gorgeous 72,000-sq.-ft. cafeteria with a 200-foot glass wall of potted herb and spice plants (a hipster’s dream).
Other elements that weren’t included on the tour include:
- A 32,000-sq.-ft. fitness facility
- Nine mothers’ rooms and eight quiet rooms
- 17 all-gender restrooms
- 179 bike racks
- A commuter concourse and connector
- The incubator space for LIFT labs
- The Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia
- A dedicated space where Roberts’ father, the founder of Comcast, will be commemorated
- A sweet, sweet view of the city from 60 floors up
The Comcast Technology Center looks nothing like the original renderings — which featured a McDonald’s playground slide, and some robots and some glass structures sprinkled about — but this finalized version of the building is actually better.
Ok, the slide would have been awesome. But vibrant prismatic sprays of paint and intricate sculptures that evoke Philly pride splashed among vanguard tech and warm wood tones make for a beautiful sight.
Honestly, it’s hard not to be at least a little envious of the projected 4,000 people that will call this building their workplace.