Posts tagged with "Philadelphia":

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QUICK CLICKS> Model Cities, Food Deserts, McMansion Decline, Green Infill

  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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SEPTA Station Benches: Veyko

Fabrikator Brought to you by:

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.
  • Fabricator Veyko
  • Architect Veyko
  • Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Completion Date Ongoing
  • Material electroplated stainless steel
  • Process CNC wire forming, 5-axis water jet cutting
“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.
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Philly Considers Times Square′s Forbidden Fruit

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. ]
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Night Lights on the Schuylkill

An array of glowing orbs has descended on Philadelphia's Schuylkill River to interact with curious passers-by.  Light Drift, a temporary installation by Meejin Yoon and Eric Höweler of MY Studio, will pulse blue and green on land and just off shore through Sunday, October 17. Each glowing orb has been outfitted with LED lights and electronic devices that allow communication across the glowing system and engagement with onlookers.  Sensors on land detect a person's presence, changing the color of orbs floating in the river.  From the City of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program:
"As viewers engage and occupy the orbs along the park, the grid of lights in the water becomes an index of the activities on land. Multiple viewers can create intersections of linear patterns, encouraging viewers to “play” with each other. These orbs bring the community together by providing gathering spaces for watching the river turn into a flickering constellation, creating new connections on the river’s edge. "Light Drift creates an atmosphere, a field of lights that transform in color and intensity based on the public interaction with it. The resting state of the field is a constant state of green. When a visitor approaches a land orb, the orb will start an “enticement mode” by pulsing between blue and green. If a visitor sits on the orb, the pulsing will transition to a blue state. The water orbs that align with the land orb will change colors at the same time, creating a linear extension of blue lights in the water. Because the orbs are arranged on a diagonal grid, the lines of lit orbs will form a series of intersecting lines in the field. The intersection of lines of lit orbs in the water will encourage different people interacting with the orbs to also interact with each other."
An opening reception takes place tonight at 6:30 on the Schuylkill Riverbank between Market and Chestnut Streets.  When the temporary installation wraps up Sunday, it could move to Boston's Charles River.  Ultimately the non-toxic PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol) shells will be recycled. Look for more information about the Light Drift installation in next week's The Architect's Newspaper.
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Reading Terminal Market Lays Down More Tracks

Philadelphi's Reading Terminal Market is one of the nation's oldest continuously operated enclosed food markets, opening in 1892 in the ground floor of the F. H. Kimbal-designed terminal. Like those in New York, Boston, and elsewhere, the enclosed market was seen as a way to get hawkers, hucksters, and dry goods carts off the street, where they were deemed unsightly and unhygienic. The Reading Terminal Market thrived for decades before declining during the era of White Flight, though it was revived in the 80s as an upscale venue for prepared foods and artisanal and organic products. With the current craze for the latter, as well as the return of residents to the city, the market is as popular as ever, necessitating an expansion designed by local firm Friday Architects/Planners. The plan, announced—yes—Friday, involves the reorganization of the aisles to make room for more stores as well as additional retail space on what is currently an office mezzanine. Work is expected to begin early next year and be completed withing six to eight months. You can peep the plans after the jump.
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The Perils of Subway Naming Rights

Our favorite wonky MTA blog has an interesting and funny post about how quickly and easily naming rights on a public transit system can get, in this case down in Philadelphia. While we all know transit systems are in trouble and should probably go about getting money wherever they can—short of more draconian fare increases, let's hope—it is easy to go too far on the naming rights front, not only into parody but confusion. While it may be a bit unseemly that the MTA tried to charge the Yankees for the rights to have their name at a refurbished 161st stop last year, and that Barclays is actually paying up for the rights in Brooklyn, yet another advertising assault on our public lives. But SEPTA has gone a step further, renaming its Pattison Avenue Terminal to AT&T Station. Unlike the Barclays annoyance, this could be downright confusing because there is no geographical relevance here, nothing AT&T about this station. As another blogger puts it on SAS: "The whole situation raises the frightening prospect in the near future that, instead of riding the Broad Street Subway from City Hall to Pattison, people will take the Coca-Cola Trolley from Pizza Hut to AT&T."

Cultural Democratization or Theft?

In this week's Friday review, Mark Lamster parses Don Argott's new documentary The Art of the Steal, a film that critiques the relocation of the Barnes Foundation from suburban Merion, Pennsylvannia to downtown Philadelphia. Whatever your view of the move, the trailer makes the film look like stimulating viewing. Opens tonight in New York and Philadelphia and On Demand. In select cities nationwide beginning March 12. 
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Repurposing! West Philly

Friend of AN and Slought Foundation executive director Aaron Levy sends the following dispatch from his "Repurpose!" event from last weekend: When the Into the Open exhibition moved in to the National Constitution Center and the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia in July after stints in New York and before that Venice, where it was last year’s Biennale entry (curated by myself, Andrew Sturm, and AN founding editor William Menking), we decided we wanted to do some community outreach in the spirit of the civic activism promoted by the architects and designers in the exhibition. And so, with the help of the National Constitution Center, the Slought Foundation, and the Community Design Collaborative, we presented “Repurpose!,” a one-day community workshop and design competition highlighting the creative possibilities of urban revitalization in the Mantua neighborhood in West Philadelphia. The photos you see on this page were all taken during the Repurpose event, during which we built a canopy of rope and recycled plastic bottles with people from the neighborhood. The design was based on the geometry of common laundry lines and provided shade and festivity for the day's events. We collected over 1500 plastic bottles for the canopy from business owners in the neighborhood, nearby churches, the National Constitution Center, and the Philadelphia Phillies stadium, and it is in this sense that we like to think of the bottles as representing Philadelphia itself The canopy project was a collaboration between architects Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss (Normal Architecture Office), Brian Phillips (Interface Studio Architects), and Lindsay Bremner of Temple University. Repurpose took place on a vacant lot at 611-627 N. 40th Street. The number of such abandoned lots in Philadelphia is estimated to exceed 30,000, while the number of abandoned houses exceeds 50,000. The lot we used for Repurpose is currently slated to become Jannie’s Place, the site of new affordable housing units named after Philadelphia City Council member Jannie L. Blackwell, who spoke at the event along with Gloria Guard, president of the People’s Emergency Center Community Development Corporation, an outreach group serving West Philadelphia that co-sponsored the event. Over the course of the day, we learned that a crowd of 10,000 people had gathered here in 1965 to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hail the growing Civil Rights movements across the country. A video of that speech from the Scribe Video Center was screened later in the day. Earlier that morning we also participated in a community workshop titled "What is affordable housing?" led by Rosten Woo and Christine Gaspar of the Center for Urban Pedagogy in Brooklyn. Throughout the course of the day we distributed over 70 recycling bins to the neighborhood, in collaboration with the City of Philadelphia's Office of Sustainability. As part of the day's events, we also placed a 1500-pound block of crushed plastic bottles, courtesy of Blue Mountain Recycling, in front of the People's Emergency Center’s Rowan House headquarters, to show the community what happens to their recyclables after it is picked up from the curb and deposited at the sorting facility. While the structure that Srdjan, Brian and Lindsay devised was obviously a physical one, we also like to think of it as a social structure, in that it brought together for the first time we can remember in Philadelphia a remarkable collaboration of non-profits, city agencies, architects and individuals. We hope that the project leads to more like-minded initiatives to literally "repurpose" vacant lots throughout the city, and in so doing to re-imagine Philadelphia's future.