La Colombe’s Modernist Cafe on Independence Mall Set to Open

Take a peek at an interior rendering.

La Colombe at the Dow Building | Rendering: La Colombe

La Colombe at the Dow Building | Rendering: La Colombe

There are few things that get us more excited and ready to go than a great cup of coffee and checking in on some modernist architecture. Today, we get to talk about La Colombe and the incredible Rohm and Haas Building (The Dow Building) at 100 Independence Mall West. So needless to say, it’s a good day.

A few weeks ago, we told you about the ongoing construction of the new cafe space on the corner of 6th and Market. It looks like everything is on track for a very patriotic opening. “We’re getting close to opening,” said La Colombe’s Kathryn O’Connor. “We’re slated to be open by July 1.”

The building was designed by a star-studded team of Alec Ewing, Stanley Cole (later of EwingCole) and Pietro Belluschi and completed in 1964. O’Connor said the goal of the cafe’s design is to be as “unobtrusive as possible” in regards to the masterful modern building comprised of soaring concrete columns and, of course, Plexiglass, the signature product of chemical manufacturer Rohm and Haas. 


Here is the outdoor space

La Colombe has brought in Stokes Architecture to design the space. If you’ve ever been to La Colombe’s flagship in Fishtown, La Peg near Race Street Pier or Frankford Hall/Fete Sau (among others), you know their work well. O’Connor said that it’s about giving a nod to the history of the building and the architectural features that exist within the space. Simply put: “It looks really awesome.”

The layout will include an island counter in the middle of the room with a register, coffee equipment and seating. Tall wood slats will line the walls to complement the very Mid Century Modern feel (some will also double as doors) and the Plexiglass chandeliers will be on full display. Because we simply can’t get enough of this building, we’ll let Hidden City’s Bradley Maule drop some knowledge on you about some of its finer details:

Inside the building, Plexiglas proves its versatility on the diaphanous walls of the boardroom, the undulating ceiling of the elevators, and most memorably, in the first floor light fixtures by Hungarian artist György Kepes. Kepes, a contemporary of Belluschi’s at MIT, designed several cruciform-shaped light fixtures featuring hundreds of Plexiglas rods each, a striking design element in the airy lobbies. The lobbies, fashioned of prismoidal concrete forms supporting teak walls with aluminum sconces, are intentionally tall to provide views of Independence Hall.

As you know, the Rohm and Haas Building has undergone quite the renaissance in the past few years. Much like with its popular neighbor, the Independence Beer Garden, La Colombe will look to liven up the outdoor area. O’Connor said there will be outdoor rock pebble area with seating and a new corner staircase will lead directly to the new cafe.

• Rohm And Haas: The Plexiglas Palace At 50 [Hidden City]

• Previous La Colombe coverage [Philly Mag]