Bob and Denise: Feted in Washington, Rejected in Chestnut Hill
Is that Philadelphia's own Bob Venturi and Denise Scott Brown
with First Lady Laura Bush? Yes, it is. The architects were at the White House on Wednesday for the National Design Awards. They received the "Design Mind" award for their career achievements, as the Washington Post reports. The award, which I wrote about in May, is sponsored by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, a part of the Smithsonian. In the past, the awards event has usually occurred in the Cooper-Hewitt's New York outpost. When I saw the press release last week saying the awards would be presented in Washington, D. C., at the White House no less, I wondered briefly if the Quaker-bred Venturi might refuse to attend, as a protest against President Bush's blundering aggression in Iraq. Now that would have been a good story.
Of course, it's nice to see Venturi and Scott Brown, who may be America's most important living architectural thinkers, get this recognition. Here in Philadelphia, it's become a struggle for them to win new commissions. While Venturi is putting the finishing touches on a chapel for Episcopal Academy's new campus, the saga of the pair's Woodmere Art Museum addition continues to drag on and on. Days ago, neighborhood opponents won a surprise victory when Commonwealth Court ordered the Chestnut Hill case back to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The museum, which owns a very good collection of eastern Pennsylvania artists, must decide between appealing to the state Supreme Court, taking the case back the the Zoning Board, or asking Commonwealth Court to give the issues a second look. See the Chestnut Hill Local for all the legal ins and outs.
After seven years of legal battles, perhaps it's time for Woodmere to reassess. Isn't there an empty spot on the Parkway, where the Calder Museum was supposed to go? This low-slung building would look pretty nice there all by itself - better, even. Unlike the neighbors in Chestnut Hill, the parkway crowd would probably welcome the Woodmere with open arms.