With Comcast Corp. set to open the lobby of its new 60-story tower to the public on Thursday, British sculptor Conrad Shawcross and New York artist Jenny Holzer unveiled their artworks — a blend of art, communication, and technology.
Shawcross' shiny, 65-foot-tall Exploded Paradigm is the first thing that visitors will see entering the city's tallest building — in addition to two sets of gleaming escalators — and continues his fascination with tetrahedron shapes.
"It looks stunning; it looks beautiful," Shawcross, 41, said as he gazed at the stainless geometric sculpture that begins narrow at its base and grows wide at its top.
Holzer, 68, who launched her career in the 1970s with posters, designed a digital art installation, For Philadelphia 2018, that scrolls one-liners across the ceiling of the new tower's lobby.
The excerpts include poetry by Philadelphia and Pennsylvania poets, and quotes from architects. In addition, about 150 Philadelphia schoolchildren were asked to complete phrases such as "it's great to live in Philadelphia because" and "when I imagine my life five years from now." Some of the answers were incorporated into Holzer's installation.
The one-liners scroll the block-long ceiling for 17 hours before repeating. Part of the beauty of the lobby's artwork is the reflection of Holzer's crisply spaced scrolling phrases — such as "her coffee doesn't spill on manuscripts" and "what will the paper write about tomorrow" — off the stainless steel Exploded Paradigm.
"This piece rocks at night," Holzer said to a crowd of about 50 at Wednesday's unveiling, including Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and architect Norman Foster, who was in Philadelphia from London for the event.
Roberts spoke briefly, introducing the artists. He was 15 minutes late because of the memorial service for philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest. Roberts' wife, Aileen, helped select Shawcross, based on a model in his London studio.
There is a third piece of public art in the lobby at the top of the escalators, titled the Universal Sphere, but it was not discussed. It looks exactly like what it's titled — a big, white sphere.
Reviewed by the Art Commission, Exploded Paradigm fulfills the company's public art requirement for the city for the new tower.
The Holzer installation was additional art and not required under city regulations.
Comcast announced the new building, now called the Comcast Technology Center, in early 2014 and over the last several weeks has been moving employees into it. There are about 2,000 there now. The Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia, on the top floors of the $1.5 billion building, is expected to open in mid-2019.
The lobby, including the Vernick Coffee Bar, which serves breakfast and lunch, will be open to the public, beginning at 6 a.m. on Thursday.