Just a few months after Philadelphia’s hugely popular, but temporary, Spruce Street Harbor Park closed up shop, the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest has opened in its place. The new space, which is open until March 1st, was commissioned by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation and designed by the New Jersey–based Groundswell Design Group, the same team behind the Winterfest's summertime predecessor. The Winterfest is so overflowing with wintertime amenities that it appears less like a pop-up park and more like an idyllic backdrop for some Christmas-time romantic comedy. There is a regulation-size ice skating rink, a bar with craft beers and spiked drinks, fire pits, a restaurant, a holiday market, and heated tents known as “The Lodge.” Shipping containers from the Harbor Park have been repurposed into Winterfest stores, and lights strung up over the summer were programmed into a brand new light show that plays every half hour. Set within the Winterfest is also a winter garden that Groundswell’s David Fierabend created “with hundreds of holiday trees and shrubs, woodchips, rustic furniture, market lights and fire pits,” according to the DRWC.
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When we talk about cities boosting bike infrastructure, we’re typically talking about adding bike lanes and launching, or expanding, bike share. Building a multi-million dollar velodrome for high-speed, Olympic-style, indoor track racing isn’t typically part of that equation. But it now is in Philadelphia. Shortly after Mayor Nutter created the Philadelphia Bicycle Advocacy Board to help make the city a world-class cycling destination, he has thrown his support behind a private plan to build a $100 million velodrome inside FDR Park. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that if the city hands over four acres of public parkland for the project, the arena’s organizers would provide between $5 million and $15 million in improvements for the rest of the 384-acre park. They would also create a four-acre replacement park. While the plan, titled Project 250, may sound like a subterranean, missile silo hidden somewhere in Nevada, it would actually bring a prominent architectural statement to Philadelphia. The Sheward Partnership has drawn up plans for the velodrome which would be a swooping, parabolic structure with a 55-foot-high roof. The building, with its lifted entrances, can perhaps best be described as Pringle-like or at least, Pringle-ish. Since velodrome cycling isn’t necessarily all that popular in the U.S., the 6,000-seat arena would be also programmed with concerts, and tennis and volleyball matches. Organizers told the Inquirer that it would be open to the public 80 percent of the time, and that amateur cyclists could buy hourly memberships. There would also be a classroom to teach free track-racing to low-income teens. Before any bikes can hit the track, however, Project 250 needs to be approved by the Parks & Recreation Commission, the Historical & Art Commission, and the City Council.
With bikeshare launching in Philadelphia next year, Mayor Nutter is taking significant steps toward boosting cycling throughout the city. NewsWorks reported that the mayor recently signed an executive order to create the Philadelphia Bicycle Advocacy Board, which will advise him on implementing smart bike policy. This would include "[fostering] volunteer efforts that promote cycling and maintain cycling trails; encourage private sector support of cycling, especially among Philadelphia employers; and promote national and international races in Philadelphia to attract the most elite cyclists to compete in the city." Despite joining the bikeshare game pretty late, Philly routinely ranks as one of the country's most bike-friendly cities. AN recently reported that out of 70 large cities in America, Philadelphia has the 10th highest percentage of residents that commute by bike. Right behind Philadelphia is another Pennsylvania city, Pittsburgh, which is experiencing nothing short of a surge in bike commuting. Using Census Bureau data, the League of American Bicyclists found that bike commuting in the Steel City grew over 400 percent between 2000 and 2013. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto wants to build on this, and has made increasing bicycle infrastructure one of his major priorities. "We got into the game late," he recently told Streetsblog, "we did our first three [protected bike lanes] in six months, though. And we're looking to do the first five miles in two years." These new lanes, he added, will become part of a "highway system for bikes." With this new infrastructure, and the city's impending launch of a bikeshare program, Peduto said Pittsburgh will "leapfrog" other cities when it comes to bicycling and livability. "We're not going to be able to settle at just being able to play catchup, we want to catch up and then go ahead," he said. Game on.
DesignPhiladelphia is hosting its annual fundraiser, PopUp Place, tonight in celebration of its first ten years and to kick off a nine-day, design-focused festival in the city. The fundraiser will include a silent auction that includes work from artists and architects including KieranTimberlake. PopUp Place is being hosted by digital agency Bluecadet in its new, 8,400-square-foot office and studio in Philly’s Fishtown neighborhood. And starting tomorrow is DesignPhiladelphia’s “A Decade of Design” festival which will feature 120 events at museums, galleries, boutiques, public spaces, and warehouses across the city. The PopUp Place fundraiser is tonight from 6:00–8:00p.m. at Bluecadet at 1526 Frankford Avenue. For more information on the fundraiser and festival visit DesignPhiladelphia’s website.
Earlier today, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter cut the ribbon on Dilworth Park—a new 120,000-square-foot public space next to City Hall. OLIN led the $55 million renovation of the site which now includes an expansive lawn, a café, new trees and seating, and a nearly 12,000-square-foot fountain that converts into an ice skating rink in the winter. The fountain also doubles—rather triples—as a canvas for renowned artist Janet Echelman's latest installation. "The serpentine form is meant as an abstract representation of the subways moving deep below the park," explained Inga Saffron in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Each time a train pulls in, colored light and puffs of mist will pulse along the sinuous path, symbolizing the constant movement of the city's transit infrastructure." The site’s most notable features, though, are likely the two KieranTimberlake-designed glass headhouses that rise out of the plaza providing an architectural flourish and better access points to the trains below.
When Frank Gehry’s renovation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is complete, the iconic institution won’t necessarily look like one of his signature works—at least from the outside. The architect isn't touching the icon's Beaux-Arts exterior, but is, instead, transforming the museum’s interior to improve circulation and boost gallery space. But even then, Gehry’s work won’t be all that “Gehry.” AN recently toured the museum’s exhibit on Gehry’s masterplan and got a chance to hear from the man himself about the museum renovations. On the tour, Gehry explained how he reimagined the building’s interior with a distinctive signature, but one that is inspired by the building’s DNA. “I think if it’s built, you’ll know somebody like me was here,” he said. This renovation has been a long time coming. And it will be a long time still before it's finally realized. The idea to update the museum was born in the 1990s and completing Gehry’s entire overhaul could take 10–15 years more. “If they wait five years, I’ll be 90,” Gehry said. “So for me, get going.” Given his age, and his storied career, AN asked Gehry about what else he wants to accomplish. “I’m so superstitious,” he said before explaining that he wants to increase his involvement in arts education. He mentioned his participation in the Turnaround Arts initiative—a presidential program, which aims to close the achievement gap through arts and music education. He told a story about going into a school in California and teaching kids how to plan and imagine cities. Gehry added that children are often marginalized in “ghetto schools.” “That’s what I’m interested in, that kind of stuff," said Gehry. "I am also designing a sailboat." Which, of course seems entirely appropriate given his predilection for sailing. He does, after all, already own a boat called FOGGY, which stands for his initials: Frank Owen Gehry. These days, it seems, every starchitect needs a boat in his or her oeuvre. Hear that Zaha and Norman? Frank will see you at the regatta.
With a recent vote in the Philadelphia City Council, bikeshare moves closer to becoming a reality in the City of Brotherly Love. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the council’s Transportation and Public Utilities Committee advanced a bill to bring bikeshare to the city by next spring. The bill is expected to be approved by the full city council on June 19. If that happens, the bikeshare system will launch with 600 bikes at 60 stations and, in the following two years, expand to include up to 2,000 bikes at 200 stations. According to the Inquirer, “the city will initially provide up to $3 million to Bicycle Transit Systems, the Philly-based company chosen to provide, operate and maintain the integrated bike-share system, he said. The funds will be used for delivery, planning and installation.” While Philadelphia is fairly late to the bikeshare game, the city will distinguish its system by allowing those without a debit or credit card to rent a bike. That part of the program is still in the works.
For the past 15 years, the Divine Lorraine Hotel in Philadelphia has been sitting vacant at the corner of Broad and Fairmount. The 10-story building, which opened in 1894 as luxury apartments, was once a towering symbol of wealth. Today, it is a graffiti-covered shell of its former self—but that could soon change. A local developer is finalizing plans to bring the building back to life. Before that happens, AN was allowed inside—and on top of—the Divine Lorraine to see the space in all its tagged and gutted glory. First, some history. The Willis G. Hale–designed building opened as the Lorraine Apartments, but was converted into a high-end hotel at the turn of the century. The Lorraine operated as such until Reverend Jealous Divine, the founder of the International Peace Mission Movement, bought the building in 1948. He changed the name of the building to include his own name, and opened what is said to be the first racially-integrated hotel in Philadelphia, and maybe the country. The Reverend has been described as both a religious leader and a cult leader. The fact that Jim Jones tried to take over the Movement after the Reverend's death in 1965 points toward the latter. By 1999, the Divine Lorraine had been completely abandoned. In the following years, many tried to give the building new use, but never found success. What is happening now is different. With the help of a $31.5 million loan from a real estate lender, local developer Eric Blumenfeld plans to transform the Lorraine into 127 apartments, restaurants, retail space, and, possibly, a hotel. When the transformation of the Divine Lorraine is complete, its iconic rooftop sign will be lit again with neon. The terms of that loan are expected to be finalized within 30 days, and construction will likely take up to two years. Local firm Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT) is overseeing the project. When AN visited the building, crews were already busy blasting graffiti off Lorraine's skin, and construction lighting was hanging throughout the interior. A structural report on the building had been completed the day before.
Consider it a mile-long step in Philadelphia's ongoing architectural renaissance. Local landscape firm Andropogon recently received approval for the plans to re-work a vacant stretch of land beside the western banks of the tidal Schuylkill River. The goal is to convert the plot located between Grays Ferry Avenue and 58th Street into public green space that provides riverfront access and recreational opportunities for local residents. The site is adjacent to Bartram's Garden, the country's oldest botanical garden founded at the house of 18th century botanist and Philadelphian John Bartram, who is also the source of the Bartram's Mile moniker for the future park. The potential for the area was first highlighted in Green 2015, a 2010 study the city commissioned from PennPraxis gauging the feasibility of adding 500 acres of parkland to Philadelphia over a five-year period. The hope is to complete Bartram's Mile before the 2015 deadline established in that plan. Though some questions linger regarding the specifics of the vision, the Philadelphia Arts Commission gave the project the final go ahead following a presentation by Andropogon's Patty West.
Fernand Léger is famous for his colorful paintings, many of which feature machine-like forms. He was also at the center of Paris’ avant-garde in the 1920s, not only in painting, but also in graphics, set and costume design, film-making, and architecture. That is the thesis of Anna Vallye, curator of this fall’s major exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis, inspired by the museum’s Léger masterpiece, the monumental 1919 painting, “The City.” Léger was born in 1881 to a cattle farmer in Normandy, France. He trained as an architect and moved to Paris in 1900 to become an architectural draftsman, later transitioning to painting seriously in his mid-20s. He also served in the French army during World War I. When he returned from the front, he painted “The City,” an almost eight-foot-by-ten-foot “mural” painting that Vallye compares to Picasso’s pivotal 1907 work, “Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon.” She wrote in the exhibition catalogue, “If the ‘Desmoiselles’ is a world of fragments that converge in the ‘startled consciousness of (its) viewer’…’The City’ is a throbbing surface with no point of convergence, a bristling aggregate of equivalent signs (disk, pedestrian, letters, smoke) and formal effects.” In the 1920’s, Léger socialized and sometimes collaborated with a wide-ranging group of artists and architects, whose works are on lavish display in this exhibition—of its approximately 180 works, only one-third are by Léger. Thus, in the section focusing on what Vallye calls “publicity,” there are striking posters by Jean Carlu, Francis Bernard, and Cassandre for everything from a record company to a railway. Also here is a snippet of Abel Gance’s film, The Wheel, depicting close-up views of the wheels of a train in motion. Léger's design for a poster for it is nearby. There is also Léger's own experimental film, Mechanical Ballet, made in 1923 with Dudley Murphy and Man Ray. The film had no story line or script, but an array of often abstract images and a score by George Antheil for sixteen player pianos, three airplane propellers, a siren, and seven electric bells. And there are Léger's ballet set and costume designs, such as his multi-colored, abstract, early 1920’s backdrop and accompanying costumes for the Ballets Suedois’ Paris production of “The Skating Rink,” themselves inspired, according to Vallye, by Charlie Chaplin’s 1916 film, The Rink. The final section of the exhibition explores the influence of Léger's architectural training on his later designs, as well as the interaction during the 1920s between architects like Le Corbusier and Robert Mallet-Stevens and furniture designer Eileen Gray with painters like Léger and Theo van Doesburg. Highlights here include a 1982 reconstruction, after the 1923 original, of van Doesburg’s and Cornelius van Eesteren’s model of the utopian de Stijl private house, an explosion into space of planes and primary colors, and similar designs for l’Architecture Vivante, an avant-garde architectural magazine by Gray, Jean Badovici, van Doesburg, van Eesteren, Vilmos Huszar, Le Corbusier, and his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret. The dialogue between Léger's abstract 1924-25 “Mural painting” and more figurative 1926 “Accordian” and “Still Life (The Cameos)” paintings, with earlier still life paintings by Le Corbusier and his colleague, Amedee Ozenfant, is fascinating. For Léger, said Vallye, mural paintings were meant to be a “presence in space. They affect the way you experience the space around them, they are meant to dominate space. If you put a red couch in a room, it changes the temperature of the whole room. Léger wanted painting to do the same thing.” Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis, through January 5, 2014, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, . It will be on display at the Correr Museum in Venice from February 8 to June 2, 2014.
Nearly three decades after he was launched into design stardom by his biomorphic, aluminum Lockhead Lounge (above), famed Australian industrial designer Marc Newson will soon receive his first solo museum exhibition in the United States. Presented by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, "Marc Newson: At Home" will collect furniture, clothing, appliances, and Newsons’ 021C Ford concept car within a mock, six-room home in the museum’s Collab Gallery. Gathered from collections across Europe, Japan, and the United States, in addition to Newson’s personal cache, the objects on display will highlight the various facets of the designer’s distinctive style of flowing lines, bulbous forms, bright colors, and industrial references which helped to define an era of industrial design. The exhibition opens November 23rd and runs until April 20, 2014. Newson's signature riveted chaise lounge, both one of his most recognizable and rarest works, will be exhibited in the living room along side the matching, cello-shaped Pod of Drawers (1987), Super Guppy lamp (1987), and honeycombed, marble Voronoi Low Shelf (2008), among other works. The kitchen will contain a more attainable collection, including the curving, plastic Dish Doctor dish rack (1997), dinnerware by Noritake, glassware by Iitalla, cutlery from Alessi, and the Champagne Coffret Magnum (2006) for Don Pérignon. Newson's playful forms and vibrant colors take hold of the children's room, wherein the classic, three-legged Embryo Chair (1988), modular, plastic Bunky Bunk Beds (2010), and "Rocky" Rocking Horse create a vibrant, Jetsonian environment. To catch a glimpse of some Newson-designed clothing from G-Star, head over to the adult bedroom, which will also contain the retro Nimrod chair (2003) and transparent Atmos clock for Swiss watchmakers Jaeger LeCoultre (2008). The minimalist, streamlined Wall Hung "Invisi II" Toilet and Wash Basin (2012) take center stage in Newson's bathroom, while the 021C concept car, designed for Ford and exhibited at the Tokyo Auto Show in 1999, is housed within the garage.
Three developers vie for the commission to convert Philadelphia’s 72-year-old Family Court Building into a new luxury hotel. After issuing a request for qualifications last October, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. (PIDC) has selected three development teams from a pool of applicants, which include Fairmont Hotels & Resorts with Logan Square Holdings, Klimpton Hotels with P&A Associates and the Peebles Corp., and Starwood Hotel & Resorts with Dranoff Properties and HRI Properties. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the city will bring officials together from different departments, from planning to historic preservation, to oversee the review process and choose a proposal. The PIDC anticipates that an agreement will be reached with the winning developer by end of the year. A new hotel will be a coup for the area around the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which has seen an influx of activity and changes in the last few years.