Roberts Center for Pediatric Research

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
743,000 square feet / 69,000 square meters

Distinct in shape and composition, the Roberts Center for Pediatric Research is a refined architectural depiction of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP) dedication to advancing healthcare. As Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects’ second project for CHOP, the 559,000-square-foot., 22-story research center continues the tradition of providing advanced healthcare in the Philadelphia region.

Sitting on an 8.5-acre site along Schuylkill River, the tower’s location provides vital connections to the River Trail via a pedestrian bridge and CHOP’s main campus, as well as inviting the surrounding community to its public spaces, which include South Street Plaza, Schuylkill Avenue Green, Bainbridge Place, a promenade overlooking the river, playgrounds, café areas, bike-share stations, and small retail spaces.

South Street Plaza surrounds the tower, accented by lavished landscaping lined with extensive seating, flexible open areas for children and families to play together, and more removed spaces for quiet reading or leisure. The plaza also acts a place for employees and visitors of the tower to decompress or relax within a short distance, giving the freedom to interact with nature while still being readily accessible.

At the tower’s base are panels of terra cotta highlighted against a glass-and-steel façade. The clay-colored strips recall neighborhood buildings’ brick structures, weaving the Roberts Center into its context as a sleek and sophisticated presence. The reflective glass continues upward in alternating compositions framed by checkered steel mullions until it terminates at the tower’s top.

Vertical aluminum light scallops extrude from two sides of the tower’s crown, increasing in length as they sweep downward to join at a corner. At night, the accents transform into an LED display controlled by inpatients on CHOP’s main campus, providing not only a magnetic addition to the Philadelphia skyline, but a spiritual connection between the sites.

The main lobby—lined by floor-to-ceiling glass—is permeated by natural light, spreading throughout the elongated floor into open public areas designed for comfort while waiting or casual meetings and collaborations. Also located on the ground level is a gourmet deli and café open to the public and employees and visitors of the tower.

The Roberts Center integrates CHOP’s existing genetics and genomics centers for streamlined clinical research and collaborations for scientific discovery and achievements. The departments also offer education on genetics for families and clinicians, medical training, informatics, therapeutics, and clinical support and counseling.

As the first phase of a potential four-phase, four-tower development along the east side of the Schuylkill River, the Roberts Center for Pediatric Research establishes a distinguished architectural character for a new research-based neighborhood. With contemporary uses of contextual materials, an interactive tower top, and welcoming public spaces, the tower continues CHOP’s mission and values through thoughtful and accessible design.