Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Laurie Olin Observed

The New York Observer profiles Philly's own Laurie Olin, the landscape architect who remade Independence Mall and is now working on the landscape behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The real subject of the article is the controversial Atlantic Yards project, which Olin is doing in collaboration with Frank Gehry. Even you don't care a whit about what happens in Flatbush, N.Y., it's interesting to eavesdrop on the sophisticated discussion that New Yorkers are having about the project, which resembles in some superficial ways Philadelphia's River City proposal. Notice that the conversation is lot more meaty than the "Big buildings: Good/ Big Buildings: Bad," dichotomy that we often hear these days in Philadelphia.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting article. I think, though, that it's wrong to say that New Yorkers are more sophisicated than Philadelphians and that's why the discussions around Atlantic Yards and River City were so different.

I'm sure that Mr. Olin and Mr. Gehry actually had drawings to show the neighbors to have a discussion. The architect for River City had nothing more than bland SimCity renderings that had no detail whatsoever. The discussion of River City couldn't go beyond the height of the buildings because the developer didn't give the public any other details.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although Atlantic Yards is slated to be located at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, it won't be located in "Flatbush, NY", the Brooklyn neighborhood and former town that is located a couple of miles down Flatbush Avenue from the project site. The actual affected nabes are Downtown, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, and Park Slope.

The scale of the proposed project will overwhelm the brownstone neighborhood -- if it is built. It's really beyond belief. Check out a rendering of the scale here: atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com. Also check out the piece on the site regarding Olin's bad mathematics on density.

Far from being blighted, this nabe has been gentrified for years. Yet the proposed project and emminent domain machine will sacrifice several perfectly charming blocks.

Philadelphia beware of this sort of project.

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no "developer" for River City. There is only a flipper with political juice.

Olin is a first class professional.

Why doesn't the River City flipper have a reputable architect? A likely reason is that reputable architects do not want to associate themselves with such a low grade client.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no "developer" for River City. There is only a flipper with political juice.

Olin is a first class professional.

Why doesn't the River City flipper have a reputable architect? A likely reason is that reputable architects do not want to associate themselves with such a low grade client.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Stephen Maczko said...

One of reasons why the level of discourse is low in Philadelphia is that a number of the more notorious commentatorsworld rather bad mouth and ascribe the most base motives that offer meaninful observations.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meaningfully think the new Independence Mall is a barren wasteland of grass, security checkpoints and dated exposed steel on brick that clashes completely with the colonial feel of the hall.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Independence mall is so god-awful that it's almost beyond criticism; the only possible reaction is "what were they thinking?" It's even worse than the old, admittedly awful design, which at least was symmetrical.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Mall

Olin is one of our nation's best designers but honestly The Independance Mall is DOA.

In Olin's defence it starts with the poorly conceived (optimistic?) and rushed plan. Olin's decision to fight the formalism of Independence Hall with a post modern gesture has proven a failure. To uproot the beautiful path between trees in the prior James Kiely design is reason enough to question Olin. Olin's meandering (romantic) walk against a poorly graded site makes for something that may be strong in plan but is weak in execution. Even the brick material, pattern, and edging of the path approach a suburban backyard. We got a big lawn...
Do Over. Again.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is The Bacon Plan again with the pavilions to one side... maybe the wrong side. We should have looked more at Venturi's Plan of breaking the blocks at Market. Again another large urban project wasted by the City of Philadelphia.

Penn's Landing, Market East, The Convention Center, Avenue of The Arts, Chestnut Street Transitway, Vine Street Expressway, Sports Stadiums in a giant parking lot.... All fail to generate anything other than campaign donations.
Can someone name a success ?

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Penn's Landing, Market East, The Convention Center, Avenue of The Arts, Chestnut Street Transitway, Vine Street Expressway, Sports Stadiums in a giant parking lot.... All fail to generate anything other than campaign donations.
Can someone name a success ?"


Yeah... Vine Street takes thousands of cars off City Streets. Cars that used to jam Market, Chestnut, Walnut even more so than now.

The Stadiums are some of the finest in the country and the negative impact of them is felt by few. It's still one of the easiest in the US to get to by car..or subway.

Eagles average 10-15k in the lot every game..that don't go in.

Wanna make it work? Add some nightlife on Pattison...but the neighbors will fight you to the death.

Or would you rather 80,000 people jamming into Fairmount and all the traffic and trash and drunks or even simple things like Stadium Lights running until 11 PM.


The Convention Center removed a prostitute ridden slum. Take a close look at the buildings in Chinatown..it's almost blighted.

Avenue of the Arts..

thanks for moving here and playing Monday morning quarterback.

These are attempts to rectify major problems..

Not all of them work ..but they can be made to work.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Fante said...

"Notice that the conversation is lot more meaty than the "Big buildings: Good/ Big Buildings: Bad," dichotomy that we often hear these days in Philadelphia."

The statement above is both humorous and sad. That's because being the architecture critic of the "paper of record," in the city of Philadelphia, she has a leadership role in the contribution of the "dichotomy" as it relates to architecture, development, and its relation to the city as a whole.

If Inga has a problem with the "dichotomy" of the conversation as it relates to buildings in Philadelphia, or any other discussion of architecture in the city, she has to look no farther than the nearest mirror.

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't be so sensitive...Inga loves and is proud of Philadelphia. There's nothing wrong with honest criticism of the level of debate here, especially from a hometown girl. You may not want to hear because it's true. But it's not damning. The architectural conversation can get better in this city and certainly has. We've all got pride in this city, but should never be afraid to intelligently criticize it.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Fante said...

Don't be so sensitive anonymous Ingbot. I'm afraid I find most of Inga's criticism to be dishonest and unintelligible—not mention shrill, churlish, toxic, and negative beyond fault.

There is no other architecture critic in any paper in this country who expresses themselves in such a manner.

So don't be so hard on me anonymous Ingbot. After all, I'm a hometown guy. My criticism may not be what you want to hear. But you shouldn't be afraid of the intelligent criticism I present.

4:09 PM  

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