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Meet the Architects Behind The Centrale

It’s obvious to anyone gazing up at The Centrale from the busy streets below — these Midtown condos have been designed with meticulous care. Allusions to Midtown’s glitzy architectural character are apparent in the tower’s Art Deco panache, but the building also gleams with modern elements, seen in its combination of dazzling glass, terracotta chevrons, and visually beguiling angles. Passersby may stop to marvel at the effortless merging of ultramodern innovation and classic Midtown character. And some may wonder: Who designed this? The answer may not surprise architecture buffs: It was the team at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects.


Since the firm was founded in 1977, Pelli Clarke Pelli has been busy creating a portfolio of impressive scope. Their wide-ranging projects include everything from record-breaking towers to mystifying museums to a wilderness retreat in the mountains of Wyoming. While Pelli Clarke Pelli can do — and has done — almost everything, what the firm is most famous for is their legacy of building the world’s most recognizable skyscrapers.


Take, for example, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. These famed twin towers were designed by César Pelli himself in the late 1990s, and kept their claim to fame as the world’s tallest buildings until 2004. Today, they remain the tallest of all the world’s twin towers. They are connected by a two-story sky bridge, which is the highest of its kind in the world. Impressive records aside, these towers are beloved by the city of Kuala Lumpur for other reasons, including the rich Islamic motifs embedded in the building’s very structure. According to the website for the Petronas Towers, the design is “based on the simple Islamic geometric forms of two interlocking squares, creating a shape of eight-pointed stars,” which announce the “important Islamic principles of unity within unity, harmony, stability, and rationality.” This approach, which honors the culture and history of the build site, is a key tenet of the firm’s method.


Another tenet of the firm’s approach is a commitment to sustainability. Pelli Clarke Pelli considers the concept of sustainability to encompass more than just energy conservation, writing that “for a building to be truly sustainable, it must be economically viable, functional for the long term, and desirable for potential tenants and users.” This philosophy is on clear display in one of their recent projects: the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. The elegant obelisk, rising high above the rest of the city’s skyline, is as aesthetically pleasing as it is environmentally friendly. Sophisticated technology, such as metal sunshades, low-emissivity glass, and heat-exchanging coils at the tower’s foundations, ensure the building is highly efficient. In addition, the tower’s base houses a transit center and connects to a public park, encouraging the use of public transportation and securing the tower’s place as a neighborhood anchor.


Judged by the scope of their record-breaking projects, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects may seem like an enormous, impersonal firm, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the firm writes that visitors to their New Haven, Conn., workspace “are often surprised by the intimate and friendly feeling of the studios.” The space has “an air of energetic focus as small teams of architects meet to discuss their projects.” This warm, intimate work setting makes sense when you consider the design of The Centrale, which, despite all its timeless sophistication, captures the warmth of home.


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