Historic Preservation

  • The Roundhouse, designed by Geddes Brecher Qualls and Cunningham and completed in 1961

The Roundhouse: A Convergence of Politics, Planning, Design, Engineering and Construction Technology

Thursday, April 8, 2021 5:30pm
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The Philadelphia Police Headquarters, the Roundhouse, was designed by Geddes Brecher Qualls and Cunningham and completed in 1961. It is less than monumental in scale but represents one of the most important midcentury concrete buildings in the USA. The Roundhouse is the product of an exceptional convergence of politics, planning, design, engineering, and construction technology, unique to Philadelphia at the start of the sixth decade of the 20th century. The Roundhouse was at the forefront of liberating concrete architecture from the constraints of labor heavy, difficult to manage in situ construction and demonstrated the vast array of new possibilities for architectural expression in concrete.  

The period of architectural and engineering experimentation in concrete and advancements in precasting technology between the mid-1950s and the mid-1980s produced a sea change. The Roundhouse was one of the first buildings that tested and demonstrated the new possibilities of architectural precasting.

This presentation will place the Roundhouse in a local, national, and international context. It will reveal what makes the siting, design, engineering, and construction of the Roundhouse special and worthy of conservation and continued use. Finally, it will suggest approaches to future use that integrate the significance of the Roundhouse into a constructive and productive future.

If you require any accessibility accommodation, such as live captioning, audio description, or a sign language interpreter, please email news@design.upenn.edu to let us know what you need. Please note, we require at least 48 hours’ notice. If you register within 48 hours of this event, we won’t be able to secure the appropriate accommodations.


Jack Pyburn, FAIA
Principal, Lord Aeck Sargent, Atlanta, GA

Jack Pyburn is a preservation architect with over 40 years of experience. Jack has a professional architecture degree is from Texas A&M University and a Masters of Architecture and Urban Design from Washington University in St. Louis. He is currently the 2021-2023 President of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on 20th Century Heritage. Jack serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Park Services’ National Center for Technology and Training, is an advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative and is a member of the Docomomo International Technology Committee. He is a past member and Chair of the AIA Historic Resources Committee and past board member of Docomomo/US. Jack has spent over two decades researching, writing, teaching, and lecturing on architectural precast concrete and is currently working on a book on the subject. His is also currently directing the restoration of several buildings significant to 20th century Civil Rights and African American history in Alabama and Georgia.