Skip to content
HomeWorksALICO, Wilmington Tower

ALICO, Wilmington Tower

This project was commissioned as the headquarters of the American Life Insurance Company, of which Tsuyee Pei, I.M.’s father, had been a director in 1932-1942. Beyond creating a strong symbol for ALICO, the goal was to enhance the building’s historic context, including an adjacent private club and a red brick Georgian church. The solution was a compact 22-story tower positioned tight on the far corner to leave open 30% of the site for a mid-block public plaza with trees, a fountain, and a finely-scaled bank. It was the kind of urban amenity that Pei became known for extracting from even the most modest program.

To maximize space, the architectural concrete tower has two service cores, one at either end. Realizing the innovative structural system envisioned for Pei’s unbuilt Pan-Pacific Tower, the cores are spanned by great 72-foot-long post-tensioned beams to create open, loft-like office floors of 6,500-square-feet. The column-free interiors provided much greater flexibility than was typical in office buildings of the day. Also pioneering were integrally plenumed double-layer “air floors” that offered tenants complete flexibility for internal uses and configurations. All of the building’s electrical and mechanical systems are housed in the space between the coffered concrete ceilings and the floating floors above. The highly sophisticated, but apparently simple, tower is further distinguished by an early use of butt-jointed windows, flush with the facade, for a widened plane of vision without the interruption vertical metal mullions.

ALICO, renamed Wilmington Tower, received the Prestressed Concrete Institute Award in 1971.


Site plan / Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

Design Team: I.M. Pei, Design Partner; Pershing Wong and Araldo Cossutta, Design Architects
I. M. Pei & Associates