Wednesday, February 28, 2007

And This Just In...

Round one in the fight for Front and Chestnut Streets, one of the last intact vestiges of the city's maritime past, went to the preservationists today. The hardship committee of the Historical Commission voted 2-1 to deny the Spears brothers' application to demolish three historic structures from the early 19th Century. (See post immediately below). The arguments - which went on for more than two hours! - centered mainly on how much it would cost to repair the rundown buildings. The owners claim the bill would top $1.5 million for a steel frame, but the committee was skeptical about the approach and estimate. Meanwhile, the city solicitor's office said it intends to pursue a "demolition by neglect" case against the Spears. Since they've only owned the building two years, it will be interesting to hear the city's arguments. Don't expect this battle to go away.
Meanwhile, at the Zoning Board of Adjustment, it was smooth sailing for the National Jewish Museum, planned for the southeast corner of 5th and Market Streets. Chairman David Auspitz pronounced the design by New York's Polshek Partnership "beautiful" and no one noticed the museum doesn't have a door facing Independence Mall (above). The board did add its voice to the chorus of complaints against Septa for failing to renovate its dowdy Fifth Street El station, with its double-wide staircases that occupy the better part of the corner. In addition to my concerns about the absence of a door on the mall, I find Polshek's 5th Street landscape plan pretty banal. It would simply cap one of the offending staircases with greenery. It's just another planter blocking the sidewalk.
The other news from the mall is that locals Kelly/Maiello beat out four other teams to win the commission for a memorial honoring the first American president's house and the slaves who were forced to live there. It was a nearly impossible assignment. But, given the complexities and rancor that has accompanies this patch of history, their memorial was easily the best of the five submissions, both in terms of content and design. Still, you have to wonder how those blank, brick columns, which represent the house's chimneys, are going to look to people approaching the mall from the west. They're meant to hold some of the video and audio equipment that will be incorporated into the memorial. In general, that corner is already pretty crammed up with stuff, so it's going to take some real finesse to make the memorial not look like kitsch.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Presidents House gizmo is an abomination. How does something like that cost $5 million dollars?

Why not build something with substance and which would blend in with its surroundings. Perhaps a duplicate of the original Presidents House with slave quarters. After its completion 99% of the idiotic tourist would think it was the original Presidents House anyway.

Why go cheap? Is this the legacy we want to be known for? This is the great stuff they came up with in 2007? Are you kidding me. If you do something, do it right. Start the fund raising campaign and gather the money and duplicate the original house.

No offense to the architects but
this thing belongs in Fairmount Park hidden behind a weeping pine tree or something. As is its an albatross on Independence Mall.

Who is the genius who had the final say on moving this project forward? Wow, the standards for this city are at an all time low.

8:18 PM  
Anonymous sbp said...

All I can say is, "I agree!"

10:14 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

I don't mind the design,,,but then it's not really for us now is it? it's for the tourists that want things to be as Disnesque as possible...moving shiny things that keep there tiny attention spans occupied. many philadelphians even know that we have new buildings in that area??

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll never understand why designers of infill construction in Philadelphia's historic districts propose conspicuously weird modern construction instead of following, at least in a general way, the design of the historic buildings. Most "historic" European cities are actually made up to a large extent of 19th and 20th century infill structure that look much like the old buildings, and tourists today can hardly distinguish the new construction. It seems to me that this is a sound idea. Why don't our designers realize this?

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The slave memorial is absolutely hideous.

Agree.Why not build a replica of the original. Also why is there 4 football fields of nothingness between Independence Hall/Lib bell and the Constitution Center?

Instead of wasting an entire block between Market+ Arch they should have built a replica block of colonial architecture and the narrow streets on that current no mans land. Fill the block with the Bourse's gifts shops,bars, restaurants, snack food places etc. Turn the Bourse into condos or office space.

The best part of Philadlephia by far is the narrow quaint belgian block streets and small colonial houses. That scenario would have been a nice transition from Independence Hall to the Constitution Center. A 1/3 mile walk of nothingness is just bad planning.

Thats retarded to have that entire block empty. This city is stupid.

8:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously, the designers rely far too much on the a/v components because these renderings represent a high school stage set and offer zippo to the mall and the important subject they're to represent. Bet this firm got the commission b/c they are one of the only minority-owned firms in town, just like most of their sorry work. See the loads of local govt work that makes up this firm's business at Thanks to the Inquirer for reporting on the other finalists so we can see first hand how this City shuns real designers to favor cronies!!

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think you want to see the other designs. They were even worse then the winning design.

They were atrocious.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is mean spirited harsh stuff above.

Everything to the left and right of this tiny project is banal. Where is this level of criticism for the Bell Pavilion and the wall like Tourist's Center across Market St. Or the present "art" on the Mall.

Fair is fair...this project is smaller (than the rendering presents) and has good ideas. It tells a nuanced story and it has great promise to heal some hurt.

A sheltered pocket park will be a great asset to the Mall and 6th street's great stretch of blast wall planters. It is a good project and was the correct choice. Now is the time to constructively voice suggestions.

Enamuel Kelly FAIA is West Philly born and raised. His firm "should" be doing this work!
Good for Kelly.
Good for KM.

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Fante said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:56 PM  

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