Friday, November 09, 2007

What's behind (or, in front of) City Hall's concrete adddition

Not surprisingly, Philadelphians reacted suspiciously this week when workers started constructing a cinder block structure at the northeast corner of City Hall. What new act of official vandalism could be perpetrated now against Philadelphia's great civic center?
Well, suspicious minds can rest easy. The city is a constructing a wheelchair ramp for the disabled, which will feed into the new security entrance. The 24-foot-long ramp, which was more than two years in the making, was meticulously designed by Joseph Powell of Buell Kratzer Powell "to look as if it were something that had always been there."
The cinder blocks will be faced in three-inch-thick panels of rusticated granite that were selected from a Quebec quarry to match the stone at the base of City Hall. Although the individual sections are not the exact dimensions of City Hall's stones, they have been sized in a proportional relationship to the originals.

The design was approved after a lengthy vetting process by the city Historical Commission staff. Two changes have been ordered since the above rendering was completed: The stair rail has been eliminated. And the design of the metal side rail has been simplified. It will looked more picket-like, Powell said, and will be topped with brass finials.
There may be a lesson here for Schuylkill River Park, which is now furiously trying to design a 1,000-foot-long ramp to go over the CSX tracks. (see post below). If it took two-plus years to create a handsome 24-foot ramp for City Hall, is it humanly possible to design a decent park ramp many times that size, with many more complications, in just two years?

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inga--any idea why the alcoves/tunnels in City Hall are used as the dumping ground for old office furniture/ I walked through last evening, exiting on the South Side, and it was filled with junk. Disgraceful.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

The new ramp looks as though it will fit in nicely with the building, I'm grateful for that. All the cleaning, sprucing up, and ramp adding to the facade is wonderful, but seems all for naught as long as the incredibly ugly chain link fencing still is going to be used to close off the interior courtyard. Is it not possible to replace them with better gating? Something maybe that befits the beauty and grandeur of the building itself? Should those portals even be closed at all? It is a wonderful public space, and could be quite a fantastic space to walk through at night, plus there ARE subway entrances inside of it....

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the city building an elevator on the east side of City Hall?

There is a two story wooden box just north of the Market St east passageway.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Rafael said...

This is boring. Let's talk about Gehry and Calatrava's week:

http://www.human-assisted.info/2007/11/garcia-gets-bim.html

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Doug said...

All this effort on the outside of city hall and the inside is still an awkward mess. Down with historicism! we're going backwards in it's grip.

6:44 AM  
Anonymous Vince Dean said...

we are finally,as a city, after 8 long years of horrendous mis-management, going foreward ! Michael Nutter is a visionary. He sees the whole picture and I'm sure he has plans for the chain link gates. I'm opposed to the new handicap ramp, but it looks better than the awful concrete addition to the north portal that is there now.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They could reconstruct the World Trade Center in two to four years, if it were not for the fueding;so a pedestrian bridge in a park seems like a simple cause to me. How come there is no coverage of the Big Green Building planned for Broad and South Streets...www.biggreenbuilding.org

9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If it took two-plus years to create a handsome 24-foot ramp for City Hall, is it humanly possible to design a decent park ramp many times that size, with many more complications, in just two years?"

Yes - you can and should design and build a good bridge in 2 years - to bad Philly can't get its act together. Maybe if we wouldn't have spent so long debating the south street bridge and got it right the first time we wouldn't even be stuck in this predicament.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Patricio said...

I know this has nothing to do with this but I'd like to thank you Inga for being a vocal advocate for those historic buildings on North Broad. Thank you.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

24 months to design to design a 24 foot ramp? At that rate, the City would take 83 years to design the 1000 foot connector bridge. No wonder the settlement agreement has a deadline. While 30 months an ambitious timeframe, some kind of deadline is necessary to light a fire under the City to it done. And the City agreed to that deadline with its eyes wide open. The process carried out thus far over the past 6 months to engage the community so that they can voice their opinions and concerns on various options on how to align the connector bridge has been a whole lot more transparent and substantive than most City capital projects. The over 500 comments received through online surveys and a public meeting is having a significant impact on the Bridge’s alignment and design, which is lot more than can be said about this wheelchair ramp, or the South Street Bridge for that matter.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Offer the street level retail space to unique shops or restaurants that will add interest to the street and the building, without making them pay going rate or top dollar for the space. The east side of 16th street, south of Market St is an example of what not to do,i.e. have empty retail space most of the time. The developer should think that an interesting retailer at ground level is worth his weight in gold. National chains are a bore, but are often the only ones who can afford the rent.
However, if this is space that builders are willing to leave empty though setbacks,why insist on a a big rent when an interesting retailer would be of much more value.
So pick a retailer or Restaurant that will enhance your project and set the rent as if you recognize his intangible value to your building.
A radical example would be if a new building developer could get Le Bec Fin to move to the building, he would benefit even if he got no rent out of the space.
That is my humble opinion.
Joe Deegan

10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to see some beautiful gates on City Hall, which when open, would act as an invitation to come in, and when closed would replace the chain link eyesores in use now.
Perhaps the new Mayor would see the potential of holding a world wide design contest for 4 unique gates . one for each Portal, each a work of art.
Florence held a competition in the Renaissance and was rewarded with Ghiberti's Doors, which are a Glory to humanity and major tourist attraction, and three other sets of doors which aren't bad either .
The plain gates on the Portal of the Caldwell building across from City Hall look good, so hopefully a design contest would yield something even better.
I can't think of a better venue for public Art in Philadelphia that these 4 Portals.
I would think that prize money and the cost of making the gates could be raised because the contest would draw worldwide attention to Philly.
Am I crazy?

11:10 PM  

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