[Editor's Note: The following comment was left on archpaper.com in response to the editorial “Motoring Toward Destruction?” (AN 08_06.05.2014), which parsed the wisdom of Detroit’s blight removal program.Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email email@example.com. ] I’m failing to find a thesis in here, other than wholesale demolition = bad, which is something we’re well aware of. Other considerations that weren’t even mentioned in this are aspects of public safety (arson and the use of dilapidated structures in which to commit crimes, peddle drugs, etc.) and the question of revenue (clearing blighted structures for redevelopment). The article even mentions that of the 80,000 blighted structures, we’re attempting to save more than half. I further take issue with some of the language in here. “In its panic to save itself…” There are issues here, the scope and depth of which are truly terrible. I’d love to have the author come to Detroit so we could show him some of what, as he puts it, we’re so panicked about. Mac Farr Data and Financial Manager City of Detroit
Posts tagged with "Philadelphia":
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.
An art installation along Philadelphia’s Northeast Amtrak corridor is adding some color to the travel experience for 34,000 daily riders. Berlin-based artist Katharina Grosse has been commissioned by the city’s Mural Arts Program to transform seven sites alongside the tracks with vibrant (and environmentally friendly) coats of paint: Orange and white streak across a warehouse, green and white do the same on an abandoned brick structure, and hot pink cover brush and boulders. The installation, titled psychylustro, began unveiling itself in late April and will “unfold in a series of seven passages—from vast, dramatic warehouse walls to mall buildings and stretches of green spaces—meant to be framed through the windows of the moving train, creating a real-time landscape painting that explores shifting scale, perspective and the passage of time.” The Mural Arts Program has committed to maintain the work in “world-premier conditions” for its first six months. After that, the installation is intended to age, weather, and disappear altogether.
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.
One of Philadelphia’s most impressive old ruins might be coming back to life. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a New Jersey real estate lender is providing $31.5 million to convert the decaying Divine Lorraine hotel into luxury apartments and commercial space. This is not the first attempt to transform the Lorraine, but it just might be its best. The 120-year-old Romanesque structure that was once a symbol of opulent luxury has been abandoned for the past 15 years—save for the ghosts who are rumored to wander its halls. But that could soon change. According to The Inquirer, this influx of cash could help developer Eric Blumenfeld "kick-start a conversion of the graffiti-scarred historic building." He bought the Lorraine for $8 million in 2012, but hasn't been able to finance a full transformation. If all things go according to plan, the Divine Lorraine will be just one of the new projects coming online along Philly's North Broad Street corridor. The building was designed by Willis G. Hale and opened as the Lorraine Apartments back in 1894. “The Lorraine was the true pinnacle of luxury in its time, boasting full electricity, two gigantic penthouse ballrooms, and a talented staff that pushed private servants into a state of obsolescence,” reported Curbed Philly. A few years later, it was turned into a hotel, which was successful up until the Depression. In 1948, the founder of the International Peace Mission Movement, Reverend Major Jealous Divine, bought the building and renamed it the Divine Lorraine Hotel. The Reverend welcomed anyone into the Lorraine, making it America’s first racially integrated hotel. All were welcome, but according to Curbed, guests had to obey Divine’s rules: “That meant no drinking, no smoking, no profanity, and sharing quarters with the opposite sex was forbidden. The two penthouse ballrooms were transformed into worship halls while the ground floor kitchen was opened to the public as a low-cost alternative for hungry Philadelphians.” And that’s just the start of it. Jim Jones—yes, Jamestown Jim Jones—used to kick it with the Reverend inside the hotel. After Divine’s death in the 1960s, Jones unsuccessfully tried to continue leading his friend's movement. Instead, Jones started his own thing, which you may have heard about. Fast-forward to 2002 when the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and then to 2006 when Philly developer Michael Treacy Jr. bought the building with a promise to preserve its historic integrity. According to Untapped Cities, that didn't happen; “instead the interior of the building was scavenged for everything from marble and alabaster to radiators and old mattresses. Afterward, it was left abandoned, windows shattered, the interior exposed to the elements." After many years of change, this abandoned, graffitied, possibly haunted, formerly-cultish, beautiful hotel is prepping for its next guests.
Weeks after the Philly Art Commission slammed Robert Stern’s proposal for the Museum for the American Revolution, he’s back with a new design. And good news for the starchitect—the commission likes it. They really, really like it. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the new plan was unanimously approved and building permits should be issued in the next few months. Unsurprisingly, Stern's altered design does not include the features, which the Commission called “Disneyesque.” “Architects replaced a cupola with a less-glaring, square-edged element lower on the building; reworked the front entrance on Third; and added to the facade on Chestnut a large lobby window and full-size bas-relief replica along the sidewalk of John Trumbull's famous painting hanging in the Capitol Rotunda, The Signing of the Declaration of Independence,” reported the paper.
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.
[ Editor's Note: The following is a reader-submitted response to a recent feature article, "City of Designerly Love." It appeared as a letter to the editor in a recent print edition, AN03_03.05.2014. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. ] As president of Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, I was pleased to see William Menking review our city’s innovative architectural scene (“City of Designerly Love,” AN 14_12.04.2013). Yet I was surprised to see my community dismissed as the “troubled surrounding neighborhood” of the Piazza, a large mixed-use development anchored by a central plaza. The Piazza can feel disconnected from the rest of the neighborhood, as Menking says. But Northern Liberties is not troubled: It’s Philadelphia’s fastest-growing community, with a 60 percent rise in population over the last decade. Multi-unit construction, industrial conversions, and infill development are everywhere, as are new restaurants and bars, entertainment venues, retail and service businesses, and professional offices. This is no mere civic boosterism. Northern Liberties has problems, but they are problems of gentrification, not underdevelopment: decreased affordability, increased traffic, high commercial turnover, and pressures on demographic diversity and community fabric. Menking is right to say the city needs to upgrade neighborhood infrastructure—but not to spur redevelopment. That ship has sailed. We need better city supports to accommodate the new density of active uses, restore access to affordable housing, and reserve property for public needs. As an urbanist and frequent visitor to New York, I understand Northern Liberties might look rough around the edges compared to many redeveloped Manhattan and Brooklyn communities. But if we want to shape the future of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, we must assess their present accurately. Matt Ruben President Northern Liberties Neighbors Association
Philadelphia might be the City of Brotherly Love, but it’s not showing any affection for Robert A.M. Stern these days. According to Philly.com, the city’s Art Commission is “deeply dissatisfied” with the architect’s proposal for the new Museum of the American Revolution. The newspaper's critic, Inga Saffron, reported that “the commission asked the architects to remove a Disneyesque cupola, add eye-level windows on Chestnut Street, and reconsider the building's composition.” It’s not quite the shot heard around the world, but, “Disneyesque cupola!?” The Philly Art Commission pulls no punches. This dramatic turn of events may have been ugly, but it’s not likely to stop the entire $150 million project from moving forward. The Commission has reportedly "formed a special committee to work with the museum” and construction could start as soon as this summer. So despite the setback, Mr. Stern will likely be able to add another Philadelphia-based project to his portfolio. Ain’t no stopping him now.
In life, by all accounts, William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, was a good man. In death, however, this portly, English-born idealist has turned nasty—if the good sports fans of Philadelphia are to be believed. But Norman Foster has a plan to appease the spirits. The trouble all started when a Bronze statue of Penn was placed atop the tower of Philadelphia’s Second Empire–style city hall, which, upon its completion in 1901, was the tallest structure in town. It maintained that status, and Penn his supremacy, until the erection of One Liberty Place in 1987, which stood some 400 feet taller. As soon as Penn’s perch was eclipsed, Philadelphia was plunged into a 25-year drought during which none of the city’s professional sports franchises won a championship. Many began to speculate that the founding father had cursed his progeny. To appease the peeved spirit, upon the completion of the even taller, Robert A.M. Stern–designed Comcast Center in 2007, a miniature statue of the great man was placed atop the building’s highest beam. A year later, the Phillies won the World Series. Now, to keep old Penn happy, the statue will be moved to the top of an even taller tower designed by Foster + Partners, which is currently under construction.
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.