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.
Posts tagged with "Philadelphia":
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.
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.
Plans for Penn's Landing have been floating around for several years now, but at a public meeting in Philadelphia last month, they finally began to crystallize. The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC), which oversees the 6 to 7 mile strip of waterfront property outlined in the Central Delaware Master Plan, has hired Hargreaves Associates—the firm responsible for the overhaul of Houston and Louisville's waterfronts—to revive the deserted stretch along the Delaware River. New renderings revealed at the event connect Old City to the waterfront with a large promenade park featuring green space, mixed-use residential and retail buildings, and an expansion of the existing South Street Pedestrian Bridge. Mary Margaret Jones, a senior principal at Hargreaves Associates, gave the audience a more in-depth look at solidified ideas for the waterfront, some of which were proposed when the firm received the Penn’s Landing design commission last spring. Plans show extensive work on the site with hope its transformation will “unlock the potential of the Delaware.” Along the expanse of the waterway property, green space and public practicality are emphasized. At the south end, the South Street Pedestrian Bridge, further developed as an arched suspension bridge that spans the highway, provides access to a new Pier Park with a waterside café, gardens, and large multi-use plaza. Further north, near the built Hyatt Hotel, Basin Park, a green space encouraging the sailing use of the Delaware River, will include a boat slip and boathouse, and a possible swimming pool on a floating barge. Midway through the promenade, Hargreaves plans Penn’s Landing Park as a green cap over waterfront parallel roadways, decreasing in grade as it slopes toward the water. It will provide event space with an 850-seat amphitheater, urban gardens, a dog park, and the possibility for outdoor art galleries within its plazas. Trails run throughout the promenade plan and at the north end near Market Street, proposed mixed-use residential and retail buildings could commercialize the public space, as well. Both Hargreaves and the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation have expressed their excitement about the plan to connect the city of Philadelphia with its riverfront in a significant way. The main concern, however, is that this ambitious scheme needs funding and it presently has none. “We are doing some creative thinking in how to finance this, but we're not ready to talk about it yet,” commented Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and DRWC Board Member Alan Greenberger at the meeting. Current Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter will leave office in 2016. Without a more solid monetary foundation, and soon, there is a possibility that the new vision could fall flat under future administration.
Philadelphia's Logan Square, home to the Penn Center and much of the city's cultural district, is now experiencing an influx of commercial and residential development. The city just gave developer Neal Rodin the green light to move forward with his eponymous three-acre mixed-use project, Rodin Square. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Bethesda, MD–based firm MV+A Architects will design the $140 million complex, which will include 293 luxury apartments and a 60,000 square foot Whole Foods with additional retail space. The nine-story building (with 5-stories of parking) will feature a roof terrace with open space and an outdoor pool. This project is one of many high profile developments in the area, including the recent completion of the Barnes Foundation and the conversion of the Family Court building into a luxury hotel.
The 32nd Street corridor at Drexel University in Philadelphia has become a hub for student gatherings, interaction, and events. Situated between Chestnut and Market Streets in the campus center, the corridor’s current design, however, does not serve the social and functional needs of its college population. In March, landscape architecture firm Andropogon released primary renderings and plans for a complete redesign of the space now known as Perelman Plaza. In August, more comprehensive images were revealed, and now the project is underway. Two weeks ago, Andropogon broke ground in Phase One on the site, razing the existing awkwardly angled hardscape to begin construction of a practical design for the coexistence of human traffic and nature. Perelman Plaza, named after its $5 million benefactor Raymond G. Perelman of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Education Foundation, is set to foster community within the student body as a physical connection of the campus buildings surrounding the site. Plans reveal that Perelman Plaza will serve as an important link between old and new Drexel University structures, including the LeBow College of Business and the mixed-use Chestnut Square, both set to open in Fall 2013. Phase One of the plaza's creation will focus mostly on the landscape architecture of Cohen Garden, nestled in the courtyard between the Bossone Research Enterprise Center and the adjacent Peck Alumni Center. Future phases of the Perelman Plaza design will coordinate student spaces for large outdoor events, seating, and pedestrian traffic with natural settings for shade and aesthetic appeal. Andropogon has also proposed sections of high performance landscape that will be modified for sustainable management of rain and stormwater. The project is part of Drexel’s larger Campus Master Plan, an initiative extending through 2017 for expansion and improvements within the university that will better integrate it with the city of Philadelphia.
Norman Foster is expected to design a new skyscraper in downtown Philadelphia, according to sources cited by the Philly Inquirer. Media company Comcast has outgrown its current home in the city's tallest building—Robert A.M. Stern's 975-foot-tall Comcast Center. Details of the planned tower are being guarded, but architecture critic Inga Saffron reported that Comcast is exploring plans to build a "vertical campus" including several new towers, potentially beginning with a new structure on a 1.5-acre vacant lot at the corner of 18th and Arch streets (indicated above). The site was previously approved for a 1,500-foot-tall tower in 2008 but Saffron said the new tower would likely be shorter. Developer John Gattuso of Liberty Property Trust told the Inquirer, "The tower will be as big as it needs to be."