The Essence of Collaboration and Innovation

In the ever-evolving landscape of private club design, the success of projects hinges on the strength of partnerships and collaboration. For 125 years, Chambers has emphasized the importance of developing and fostering relationships—with clients, with industry partners, with each other. When you develop strong partnerships that wholeheartedly embrace shared values, innovation, and collaboration, anything is possible. And such was the case with the talented team of people that came together to bring The Union League of Philadelphia’s rooftop restaurant to life.  

Selecting Partners 

In any renovation, the coordination between designers, architects, engineers, and construction teams is a critical component to achieving project goals. Creating an effective team goes beyond assembling individuals; it’s about synergy, communication, and a shared vision.  

From the initial stages of master planning, the Union League sought out Chambers as a long-term partner to join the Club on its journey into the future. Chambers worked closely with the Union League’s Executive Team and in-house interior designer to understand the Club’s goals, present and refine concepts, and ultimately determine the appropriate phasing for implementation.  

Once a conceptual direction is established, engaging specialized consultants becomes crucial to confirming specific details. Finding the right general contractor to oversee the project throughout construction is equally essential. Chambers and the Union League sought partners that would not merely focus on meeting project requirements but would work together to foster a collective passion for delivering exceptional results. 

Refining Details 

Throughout the design and documentation process, significant coordination occurs between architects, interior designers, consultants, and the general contractor. Chambers’ comprehensive suite of services from planning through architecture and interior design created a seamless transition from the conceptual process into detailed documentation. Chambers also worked closely with the Union League’s in-house Director of Interior Design to coordinate efforts throughout all stages of the process. 

While typical consultants often include structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers, a consultant team could also include acoustical engineers, landscape architects, swimming pool designers, and more. In the case of the Union League, a kitchen designer and lighting consultant were key team members in developing the designs for Trumbauer’s. 

Of course, the selection of a general contractor is critical for any construction project, but especially for one as complex as this rooftop dining addition. Clemens Construction Company has significant experience in construction projects that involve historic structures, especially within Philadelphia. This experience made them an ideal partner for the project and made sense to include them as part of the implementation team from day one. In fact, Clemens was involved from the very beginning of schematic design—a decision that proved to be tremendously helpful with coordination throughout the entire project.

Working Together 

Once the project team was assembled, coordination began. Building on such a historic structure has inherent challenges and presented a series of challenges that tested the team’s collective ingenuity and collaboration. 

For starters, the team grappled with the intricacies of working with design elements based on structural drawings from the original buildings, which dated back over 100 years. Field verification revealed inaccuracies, necessitating a mid-construction pivot. This demanded a coordinated effort to revise structural supports, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing plans, interior architectural details, bar and furniture placement—all based on revised column locations.  

Aaron Jaffe, Assistant Project Manager at Clemens and a key team member for the development of Trumbauer’s, notes how critical collaboration among the project team is in this type of situation. “Overall, the team was very responsive when issues arose,” notes Jaffe. “The architects, interior designers, engineers—everyone was able to quickly get us information and work together to find solutions and lessen the impact on the construction schedule.”

Chambers’ architecture and design teams also took great care to coordinate the design of the new rooftop dining venue with the Union League’s in-house design team. “It was wonderful to have the Club’s design director involved in all facets of this project,” says Lee Hyden, Director of Architecture and Principal at Chambers. “It was so important to carry the Union League’s style and brand throughout this space, ensuring Trumbauer’s had its own identity but complemented the interiors of the rest of the Club as well. Their team provided invaluable insight into this process.” 

Minimizing Disruption

At times, minimizing member disruption was also a unique challenge. Though the addition of Trumbauer’s on the roof did not directly impact existing member spaces, the project did require replacing three elevators and extending each of them to the rooftop level. This involved a strategic and phased approach so the Club could remain operational, leading to only a few days when the Club needed to close due to elevators being out of service. 

“We worked really closely with the Union League to ensure we were meeting their expectations throughout construction,” says Jaffe. “We had weekly meetings to discuss what areas of the Club might be impacted that week and how we might need to accommodate their needs.” For example, if a crane needed to be positioned in the Club’s alley one day, it was important to coordinate dates and timing to make sure the Club wasn’t expecting a delivery or hosting a wedding. Jaffe notes that these meetings turned out to be critical to the overall success of the project.

The construction team also took great care to ensure the site remained as neat and as tidy as possible to meet client expectations. “There is a level of pride that is present in every aspect of the Union League,” Jaffe remarks. “The building is in pristine condition given its age and its clear that Club management takes great care in maintaining it. We were all very aware of the historical importance and significance of the building, so we made sure to bring that same level of care to everything we did.” Jaffe notes that while this was sometimes to the detriment of the overall project schedule, it was well worth it to keep to their motto: better safe than sorry.

Forming Bonds

In the intricate world of private club design, the legacy of esteemed institutions like the Union League is not necessarily found in the structures they create but in the relationships they build. Of course, technology advances in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry played a large role in the project team’s ability to seamlessly integrate efforts for the project. Renderings helped bring visual concepts to life, cloud-based BIM software was critical in coordinating building systems, and team members worked together with constant communication and support for one another.

“We all put everything we had into the project,” notes Jaffe. “We developed a strong working relationship and we really grew to have a bond with every member of the project team.” This unwavering focus on collaboration, effective coordination, and the ability to overcome challenges stand as steadfast principles guiding the pursuit for excellence in design and construction.

“The success of this entire project truly lies within the strength of the project team,” says Hyden. “Talented, professional partners came together to develop a vision, create innovative solutions, solve problems collectively, and ultimately achieve a common goal. And the result is truly stunning.”


We’d like to thank the talented team that came together for this project! 

If you’re interested in engaging our team to partner with you on your Club’s journey into the future, let us know! 

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