Philadelphia Planning Commissioners have approved several major projects for development on or near the Central Delaware Waterfront. 205 Race Street, designed by Peter Gluck, was granted several zoning variances despite mixed reactions from Old City community members. Plans to develop mixed-use residential buildings and new public space on Piers 34 and 35 were also approved.
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Last week Philadelphia’s new zoning code went into effect, but projects nurtured under the old code may still be rising. Just yesterday, architect Peter Gluck presented a tower proposal to the Old City Civic Association for a 16-story building adjacent to the Ben Franklin Bridge. Because the zoning permits were filed last month the building is subject to old code. Gluck’s presentation of 205 Race Street soured when new renderings revealed that an early proposal by SHoP Architects, initially approved at a 100-foot height, had morphed into a 197-foot tower that sets back from Race Street, PlanPhilly reported. The group voted 11 to 1 to oppose the project. In a phone interview on his way back to New York from the presentation, Gluck said that the timing was coincidental. He added that the design phase of the project began more than a year ago, when political wrangling surrounding zoning legislation made the outcome of the code anything but certain. Gluck and the developer Jeffery Brown decided to move forward while the zoning debates played out. “We knew what was going on,” Gluck said. “We designed it not for the zoning strictures, but what made sense urbanistically and what was doable from an economic standpoint.” Gluck would not comment on curtain wall materials or engineering while the building is in the midst of the permitting process. But he did say that the taller height was a shift in massing intended to respond to the neighborhood context, adding that volume remains much the same. The initially approved building was 100 feet high all the way around its perimeter. The architect said the new design creates a lower parapet at 56 feet along Race Street, before setting back 14 feet and allowing the 197-foot high tower to rise. The setback would make way for a green roof and a two-story cutout into tower along the Race Street side. The design’s new Race Street height is intended to offer clear views of the bridge, while emphasizing the corridor leading to the recently completed Race Street Pier. The tower is intended to respond to the height of the bridge, though detractors point out that the new code addresses nearby building height and not the bridge. Copious amounts of space would be set aside for a ground floor retailer with a glass storefront wrapping around Second Street. The glazing would give way to service docks along Florist Street, which runs just under the bridge. In an area known for its narrow colonial streets, Gluck said that the bridge allows the Florist Street service docks to be uniquely qualified to accommodate large trucks needed to service a supermarket. It’s an amenity that Gluck said the area needs, along with the people to use it. “Old city desperately needs population and retail, the kind of things that make a city work,” said Gluck. “Right now there’s a very long derelict area and our project is meant to enhance that movement toward the pier.”
The Friends of Frank Furness Facebook page is lit with tributes to the Philadelphia architect who died 100 years ago today. Furness diehards made the trek to his grave last Sunday. The remains of the civil war veteran and architect were lost until a group seeking to pay tribute to Medal of Honor recipients got in touch with Laurel Hill Cemetery to find him fifteen years ago. A modest military headstone marks the final resting place, but far more impressive monuments, in the form of his masterworks, dot the streetscape of Center City, Philadelphia. But given the choice, what building by Furness would be his greatest monument? Is it the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts? The Venturi-restored Fisher Fine Arts Library at Penn? Or, perhaps one his multi gabled-grand homes, like Dolobran? Or would it be one of the dozens of small, but fanciful homes that animate downtown, or a modest church in South Philly? In one online video, Venturi pantomimes the prayerful bow he makes each time he passes the Academy. Amen.
Craft Spoken Here Philadelphia Museum of Art 26th St. and Benjamin Franklin Pkwy. Philadelphia, PA Through August 12 Since it was founded in 1876, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has collected and exhibited crafts; the collection today includes 20th- and 21st-century works from across the globe. With Craft Spoken Here, the Museum presents the medium of crafting as a common language of technique, material, and form that defies cultural boundaries and historical categorization. Drawing from the museum’s collection as well as works on loan from artists and private collections, the exhibition will include some 40 works by acclaimed and lesser-known craftsman alike, with contemporary pieces from 1960 to the present, including The One, 1985 by Rebecca Medel (above). Representing the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe with works in ceramic, glass, metal, wood, lacquer, paper, and fiber, the works on display show the breadth of the medium and highlight the qualities of craft that transcend culture and time.
Philly is one step closer to creating an elevated park on an abandoned rail viaduct. Studio Bryan Hanes and Urban Engineers, two firms collaborating on the design of the SEPTA Spur phase of Philadelphia's Reading Viaduct, have released new images of the reclaimed railway that bring the proposal into focus. The Spur represents a significant step in realizing the vision of the elevated park with a primary entrance from Broad Street that rises from grade to the elevated rail line. The first phase stops just shy, however, of the wider, more programmable space on the main Viaduct. As a development teaser, the Spur will serve as a crucial component of fundraising efforts by park advocates, Viaduct Greene and the Reading Viaduct Project, and the design's reception could represent a make-or-break opportunity to complete the larger project. According to Bryan Hanes in an article from HiddenCity, "We have been working to maintain the industrial character of the space while finding the appropriate balance between program elements and the simple pleasure of being up off the ground in an awe-inspiring place." Funded primarily by the William Penn Foundation and the Poor Richards Charitable Trust, the Spur will make up just 9% of the total area of the proposed park. Although the dream of an elevated park so far remains a dream, construction of the SEPTA Spur would represent a huge accomplishment for the city of Philadelphia. As one local resident put it, "let's just do it!"
Objects of Ruin. Israeli artist Ofra Lapid has taken society's obsession with ruin to a whole new level. Inspired by amateur photographs from North Dakota's urban and rural decay, Lapid's Broken Houses series consists of small models of the dilapidated buildings that are re-photographed without their original context. Her work produces an eerie sense of reality set against a stark grey background. Check out more images after the jump. Tree Time. A place for every tree, and every tree in its place. Two maps from New York and Philadelphia are pinpointing the exact location of trees in each city. The Dirt reported that Edward S. Bernard and Ken Chaya have produced an illustrated map entitled Central Park Entire that seeks to honor the work of landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux by graphically representing all of the flora and fauna of Central Park. In Philadelphia, the PhillyTreeMap provides a similarly detailed online database that crowdsources each green public and private property. Making Connections. According to the Daily Joural of Commerce Oregon, the AIA will launch an online matchmaking service in September for stalled development projects and their potential real-estate investors in hopes of giving life to long-stalled projects while compiling data that helps identify problem developments. Parklet, PA. Philly is the latest city to jump off the bandwagon and set up a park, joining pavement-to-parks pioneers New York and San Francisco. The city will convert parking spots into miniature parks as a low-cost way to open up green space in University City. Additional parklets could be introduced the upcoming years pending the success of their pilot project.
OLIN has completed a renovation of the gardens at Philadelphia's Rodin Museum, which houses the largest collection of Auguste Rodin's sculptures and objects outside of Paris. The renovation is a piece of a larger refurbishment of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which is also being overseen by OLIN, as a part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Master Plan. The renovation restores the symmetry of the gardens, originally designed by architects Paul Cret and Jacques Gréber. The Robin space is a formal French garden within the more picturesque landscape of the Parkway. The landscape architects edited the plantings to increase the visual connection to the Parkway and added plants that would emphasize the "seasonality" of the garden, according to a statement from the firm. OLIN is also adding new outdoor furniture and lighting. Sculpture will be returned to the garden and the exterior of the building, including Eve and The Age of Bronze, which will be placed in niches on the facade. Adam and The Shade will also be placed in the garden, joining The Thinker, which currently sits at just beyond the gates at the Parkway entrance.
AOL's New Offices Are Snazzy: Fast Company has a slideshow of interior shots of AOL's new offices in Palo Alto. The space was designed to be bright and collaborative. "This being a tech company, naturally, it’s got a game room, too," writes Suzanne LaBarre. The interiors are the work of Studio O+A, which has designed offices for other Internet companies like Yelp, Facebook and PayPal. Philly Set For a Makeover: Sometimes it seems like Philly is the East Coast city people love to hate on for its small size, poor public transit and high crime rates. That may change soon with a new comprehensive plan for the city that could include: "more open space, bike lanes and preservation efforts, as well as specific goals including an extension of the Broad Street subway to the Navy Yard, an east Market Street that can really be Philly's 'Main Street', a waterfront lined with parks." NYC's Lesson for LA: New York Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan blogs on how Los Angeles can learn from New York City's Plaza program. It's the quintessential showdown of cities: New York, a dense metropolis where most native-born teens don't even have their driver's licenses, and LA, a sprawling auto-centric city. There's even a book called "New York and Los Angeles" that says so. Sadik-Khan's piece is part of Streetsblog's new series on how the best transportation practices in other cities can be adapted for LA. Brownwashing Republicans: Grist has a list of 10 Republican politicians who are backtracking on pro-environment statements they've made in the past. The #1 offender is presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who called for climate action in a 2008 ad for Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection. Earlier this year, he said, ""I would not adopt massively expensive plans over a theory."
Toy Cities. Our friends at Planetizen tell us that Avondale, AZ had urban planner James Rojas over for a playdate of sorts. Citizens who took part in this re-visioning session got to use pipecleaners, Legos, blocks, and other assorted toys to build their ideal version of the city. According to Rojas, this bottom-up community planning method breaks down barriers and allows people to exercise a degree of creativity not often found at the typical charrette. Food Oases. Streetsblog questions the much hyped notion of the "food desert": is it media myth or reality? It seems that urban areas aren't always as lacking in food stores as they seem, at least depending on your definition of supermarket. Even the USDA, who recently debuted their new food desert locator, might be a bit confused about what constitutes a food desert. (In fact, the web application says that a part of Dedham, MA is a food desert. Maybe they don't count the Star Market that's right near that Census tract...) Suburban Swan Song. Slate's architecture columnist Witold Rybczynski has penned an obit of sorts to that symbol of suburban sprawl, the McMansion. He posits that when the recession is over people will be in the mood to buy homes again, but that they may be hesitant to purchase a behemoth of a building that costs a lot to heat and cool. Green Alert. Inhabitat takes a look at the latest in the green roof trend in the form of sloping roofs on townhomes in the City of Brotherly Love. It seems that the historic Center City has a new (and almost LEED certified) infill development called Bancroft Green. The high-end homes here sport some nifty plant covered roofs as well as geothermal heating and herb gardens that capture storm runoff and spaces designed specifically for bicycle storage.
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Bent stainless steel benches in Philly’s SEPTA station are designed to stand the ultimate urban test.A subway bench never proves itself on the first day. That was one of the things that interested the designers at Veyko, a Philadelphia-based metal fabrication shop, when they set out to compete for a federally-funded Art In Transit commission to design benches for Philadelphia’s 8th Street SEPTA station. “As a fabricator, you often see these blob forms, but my particular interest was taking that form and putting it in the most caustic situation, which is a major urban transit system,” said Veyko founder Richard Goloveyko of the team’s design, which won the commission in 2005. “We wanted to see that form built well enough to exist the wear and tear of a subway station.” The benches have resiliency thanks to their bent wire design. The idea for the shape came from the way subway travelers wait in the station: they sit or they lean. By modeling these positions in Rhinoceros and Solidworks, the team created a map between the two postures, and the curved, skeleton-like form took shape. Bench frames were cut using a five-axis water jet machine, while CNC wire forming bent 5/6-inch stainless steel strands to meet exact parameters set forth in the computer model. Wires are spaced at 1-1/8 inches on-center to create a comfortable, structurally sound design that also allows water and small debris to pass through. The ten, 20-foot-long benches fabricated by Veyko were bolted to station walls using Hilti epoxy anchors, giving cleaning crews easy access to clean the floor beneath. As another sanitary measure, the stainless steel is electro-polished, resulting in a mirror-like finish that resists dirt and bacterial buildup, similar to finishes used on sanitary hospital equipment. The design of the benches discourages anyone from lying on them, a parameter in the competition guidelines, but “virtually everyone uses them differently,” said Goloveyko. Kids tend to nestle into the seat, some people sit on the area for leaning, and some gather in the small alcoves formed by the arched seat. Now, about a year after installation, the benches show no signs of damage—no small feat for a station that sees tens of thousands of travelers a day. Inspired by the SEPTA bench design process, the Veyko team has now entered similar proposals in other public transit competitions across the country. While the SEPTA bench design is too complex to be viable for commercial sale, similar iterations may not be, and the company plans to develop its own line of urban furniture sometime soon. Above video: An example of CNC wire bending.
Philly's East Market Street could offer a small slice of Times Square's neon nightlife if a proposed "commercial advertising district" makes it through City Council. Developers and billboard proponents are betting that digital advertising signs will keep tourists shopping - and spending - downtown, but the Philadelphia Daily News says not everyone is going along for the ride. With Philly's convention center and thousands of tourists and residents only a few blocks away, city leaders are baffled when Center City streets are abandoned at sundown. Some believe these dynamic billboards, attached to new and existing buildings, will create a sense of vitality that could spur a vibrant shopping and entertainment district able to hold its own against the likes of the King of Prussia mall. Opponents say the gaudy signs will be incompatible with Philly's historic brand, leading one civic group to call the proposal "honky-tonk junk." The advertising is, in a sense, selling out when other redevelopment opportunities exist. But digital advertising is seen as a catalyst for redevelopment and improvement of downtrodden East Market Street. From the Daily News:
According to Paul Levy, executive director of the Center City District, revenue from advertising is needed to "stimulate development in that corridor." He said he disagreed that the proposed changes would make the area look like Times Square and that the bill permits large ads only on buildings whose owners have agreed to use the money to improve their properties, both the interior and exterior.Philadelphia will continue to study the proposed advertising district while details are being worked out, but the specter of digital ads covering East Market Street is sure to make the debate a lively one. What do you think, can digital billboards and the Times-Square-Effect create a revitalizing energy to bring up a struggling street? What does the advent of "advertecture" mean for design overall? Have we finally learned from Las Vegas? [ Via Brownstoner. ]