The Phoenix Building


If you were to build a building with only two sides you would need to rely on two connected curves. Any other solution would result in a thin rectangle, a triangle, or a full circle. You would need to construct an elliptic lenticular cylinder.

And on Constitution Plaza in Hartford, Connecticut, at the center of the city's east facing skyline, that is what the Phoenix Building is. It is often described as the world's first two-sided building. Locally, it is still known as the Phoenix Building after the former mutual insurance company that built it as its headquarters in 1963. Others call it the boat building.

The bow and stern of this ship look the same.

The bow and stern of this ship look the same.

The building was designed by the architectural firm Harrison and Abramovitz. The same company designed the United Nations building in New York.

The building is only 13 stories tall, but its distinctive shape and blue tinted glass make it hard to ignore. Even if you don't know the architectural history of the building, it is clear to the most casual observer that there is something unique about it.


It is often referred to as "the boat building," because of its shape. But it was also originally designed to rest in a pool of water that surrounds the base just below the lobby level. From certain angles the building has the visual properties of a sail.

When Cesar Pelli designed the nearby Connecticut Science Center he considered the proximity of the Phoenix Building and gave the new structure a curved roofline to enhance the relationship between the two.

The building is now owned by Nassau Re.

It is 225 feet long and 87 feet wide. In 2005 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2010, the building was awarded a Silver Leed certification.

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© Dean Pagani 2018