Monday, June 30, 2008

Who Knew? Philly a Design Mecca

As much as I love writing about architecture in Philadelphia, I would never claim that this city is a hotbed of cutting-edge design. The city's establishment is just too cautious, too penny-pinching, too old-fashioned, and too unworldly. (Yes, that is a huge generalization, and one that is sure to get me in trouble. Oh well.) So what a huge surprise to see Philadelphia weigh in as the 9th best design city in America in yet another one of those annoying Top 10 surveys featured on Business Week's website. Ahead of Washington, D.C. no less! And squeaking in right behind Denver, a city that has done a great job of simultaneously reinventing its downtown and waterfront.

The poll, of course, is as suspect as every other Top 10 poll. The authors responsible for this survey are RMJM Hillier, a not-particularly innovative architecture firm, which just happens to have a large office in Philadelphia. As usual, there's a disclaimer that the survey isn't scientific. Instead, the firm cobbled together a list of criteria that includes the availability of public transit, the number of LEED-certified green buildings and the population of creative types. Now these are a fine basis for comparing the merits of different cities, but hardly the sort of criteria you'd expect someone to use to establish a metropolis' design cred. (It would be no less scientific to count the number of people wearing cool eyeglasses.) But when you've made it to the finals, who's to quibble. Not only can Philadelphia claim to be America's Next Great City, we can now boast that we're one of America's design capitals, too!
(That great Comcast Center photo comes from - wherelse? -