Tuesday, January 24, 2006

BOOM Was Booming

Talk about an urban boom. You couldn't find a square inch of free real estate last night at the Penn School of Design's panel discussion on Philadelphia's construction boom. My estimate is that at least 200 people crowded into the upper gallery at Meyerson Hall to hear a free-flowing discussion between developers, architects, historians and critics.

There were lots of sharp observations. Architectural Historian David Brownlee pithily observed that booms rarely produce good architecture, that residential booms produce the most conservative architecture of all, and that urban planning rarely produces booms. Amazingly, some of the most progressive ideas came from developers Tony Goldman and Greg Hill. Listen to Goldman, the guy who transformed 13th Street from seedy to sensational: "There ought to be a class action suit against all garage owners for causing the deterioration of the public realm." If he can say that, what's keeping Philadelphia's wimpy city planners from weighing in on the garage-tower scourge.

Goldman's remarks were yet another reminder of the grass-roots disconnect between what Philadelphians want from their city, and what the city's old guard power brokers encourage. How ironic to pick up this morning's Inquirer and see yet another fat-faced garage-podium tower (above) planned for the Delaware by Donald Trump. As usual, the Inquirer treats Trump with gushing reverence. Nevermind that Trump is probably the last developer on earth to jump on the Philly condo bandwagon, and that his entry comes just as others are getting skittish about the market. Sadly - ironically - the word at the Boom panel last night is that the banks are starting to pull back on financing for new condo buildings.

Kudos to Penn's Detlef Mertins, A.J. Pires and Annette Fiero for reaching out from the university's Ivory Tower to examine the architectural trends in the city.


Blogger Gabriella said...

Sounds like there were some really interesting ideas kicked around at the forum last night. Only too sorry that I couldn't actually be there myself. Goldman's comments really should be used to kick some people in the City's pants into real action, because it truly is time. What will we have now, with Trump's announcement that he finally deems Philadelphia worthy of his "mark" here, everyone kowtowing to his demands. And what of the demands on Delaware Avenue and the infrastructure in that area? Really, he can just stay in New York, unless he is willing to think this project through from inception to completion, along with its potential for impact on the surrounding areas.

4:21 PM  
Blogger JOEL said...

Very Un-impressed with the Trump design. I'm sure the city is flattered to have the name grace a piece of big-budget Philly architecture...but here's hoping some presure is put on him to truly take this city seriously and erect something worthy of its valuable waterfront. LOSE THE PODIUM GARAGE AND ADD SOME CHARACTER DON!

5:36 PM  
Blogger SPM said...

Couldn't get anywhere near the room---very poor space planning last nite, after big hype---I saw many disgruntled people.
Sounds like a good session though.
Penn gang shoudl plan on auditorium in the future.

7:40 PM  
Blogger mhawf said...

Yes I was very excited by the forum and was quite surprised that it was being held upstairs and not in the auditorium. I was one of the many who showed up and there was no room left. boo-hoo

9:22 PM  
Blogger kerryB said...

As a long time (horrified) Trump observer, I've been concerned that he'd come barreling down the pike into Philly after Manhattan had been picked over so thoroughly that no viable opportunities exist. So, here he is. Philly has done well without him. Save for some of the banal architecture unfortunately prominent along the Delaware, the city has one of the nation's best skylines comprised of great towers among older human scale neighborhoods...like Manhattan before the 1980's.
If the Donald has to happen to Philly, make him toe the line like Chicago and Toronto have. My sense is that once Trump enters the picture, things have gone too far......your city has gone beyond the point of no return and will ne forever altered if not cheesed up by those for whom only the bottom line matters, not the context. If you don't demand their respect and consideration, they won't give you high quality.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

I have to agree with all the comments. Class A luxury to one, is cheezy glitz to many....have you been to the trump plaze lately in AC? Gold mirrors....if philly is the place to be Donald, lets see an apprentice contest for the best new highrise on the Delaware!

1:03 PM  

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