Excerpt: The Robinson Building at 1020 Market Street is an iconic example of Center City’s mid-century commercial hey day. Originally a budget women’s wear department store, it was built in 1946 from the designs of partnering architects Victor Gruen and Elise Krummeck. Gruen was a pioneer of modern retail architecture and is regarded as the father of the shopping mall. The building on Market Street is rumored to be the last one of the last of 11 Gruen-designed Grayson-Robinson stores still standing. Over the years various tenants have moved in and out of the street level suites. The building was recently purchased and the suites have since been vacated.
When exploring a potential use for the building, we were motivated to preserving the front façade, creating an exact replica of the original signage which had such an iconic presence during the department store’s tenure. However, this also required our schematic design to embrace the Market Street-facing elevation that has minimal fenestration. Inspired when it occurred to us that one building type that thrives on windowless spaces are movie theaters, we realized this building was destined to be a cinema.