Office Buildings


R.W. Ayer Building

204 S. 7th Street

Philadelphia, PA





The rectilinear Ayer building is Bencker's most conventional and ornamented design.  Listed on the National Register, this building can be considered Art Deco.  Whereas most of Bencker's buildings are quite plain even when illustrating certain characteristics of Deco, the Ayer building has the most complete set of ornamentation of any of his buildings.

As seen in the photos this building completed in 1929 is masonry ornamented with iconic sculpture, geometrically shaped corners, industrialized reliefs on spandrels and geometrically pressed metal work.  The most significant appearance on this building which is not stressed on other Bencker buildings is polychrome.  In looking at the detail of the steel doors and surrounding frames, one can observe a geometrically purified sunrise, Mayan temple shapes and multiple colors.  Where most of Bencker's designs were exclusively tan masonry or brick, this simple expansion of color a very significant tenet of Art Deco ornamentation.  As a symbol of strength and power, this heavy building, clad in extensive ornamentation is Ralph Bencker's best example of an Art Deco influence.

Jewelry Trades Building

734 Sansom Street

Philadelphia, PA


Constructed in the same year as the Ayer building, the Jewelry Trades building juxtaposes traditional Bencker design with his masterpiece.  This building is a simple office building with minimal applied ornament.  Art Deco design features include copper sconces, geometrical pilasters reaching skyward beyond the parapet and simple fern motifs above the main entrance.  The ornamentation of this building nearly blends into the brick and is minimal at best.  There is no polychrome, little pure ornamentation or feeling of modernism.  The Jewelry Trades building is ordinary and its Art Deco ornament is hardly pure or expressionist.  As a style based wholly on applied ornamentation, a building such as this which is so plain and lacking in expression is not Art Deco, but merely dabbles in modernism.