Competition: Re-Imagining The Athenaeum of Philadelphia

Imagine: After three years of careful dismantling, moving,  painstakingly re-assembling and most importantly, restoring, John Notman’s historic Athenæum building has finally arrived at its new location in Fairmount Park, where it will serve as the headquarters of  the newly formed chapter of the Friends of Brownstone (PhilaFOB). Flush with government funding from lottery and fracking  revenue, PhilaFOB made the Athenæum Board of Directors an offer it  couldn’t refuse.  So now, for the first time since 1845, the lot at 6th & St. James Streets  is vacant, and the Athenæum, still a vital independent lending and  research library, with growing architectural and design collections,  must re-imagine itself without its historic building. Given its  location and its corporate purposes, what might a mid-21st century  Athenæum look like?

Gehry Unveils Designs to Extend the Philadelphia Art Museum Downwards

The heart of the Museum will be opened up, creating a clear sight line through the ground-floor and first-floor galleries that will greatly simplify wayfinding. Image © Gehry Partners, LLP

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has revealed Frank Gehry‘s designs for a 169,000 square foot expansion that will see the museum dig down to create a new set of galleries underneath its existing footprint. Already an unusual choice for a project whose brief called to preserve the architectural integrity of the existing building, Gehry’s design is an unexpectedly muted intervention, focusing on interior rearrangement and additions that are in keeping with the 86 year-old building’s aesthetic.

Perhaps the most dramatic alteration proposed by Gehry is a plan to punch a hole through the museum’s famous ‘Rocky steps’, the iconic training location from the Rocky film series, creating a window into the new subterranean galleries; however as the $350 million project will by necessity by undertaken in stages, this intervention is likely to be a subject of discussion for some time.

More on the design after the break

Foster + Partners Unveil 1,121-Foot Comcast Tower for Philadelphia

© dbox, Foster + Partners

Comcast Corporation and Liberty Property Trust has commissioned Foster + Partners to design a 59-story, $1.2 billion mixed-use tower planned to neighbor Comcast’s existing global headquarter in . The 1,121-foot glass and stainless steel building is expected to be the tallest in the , outside of New York and Chicago, and the largest private development project in the history of Pennsylvania.

Experience Tyler Architecture

This thesis project explores the inherent irregularities of memory as a means of exploring design. (Eric Mayer, B Arch; Professor Sneha Patel)

Tyler Architecture at Temple University in focuses on design in the contexts of culture, technology, and stewardship of the built and natural environment. Its programs stress critical inquiry and innovation as part of the creative process, teaching students how to intervene in the physical world through carefully considered acts of making. 

The Department engages the city, exploring and addressing the ethical and social dimensions of architecture and the urban environment. Through this engagement, it seeks to develop an ethos of responsibility in the students, preparing them to become effective leaders in practices and discourses surrounding the complex global and local issues of our time.

More after the break.

A New Series Featuring Laurie Olin, Acclaimed Landscape Architect

YouTube Preview Image

The Cultural Landscape Foundation recently launched its newest documentary as part of the ongoing Oral History series, this time focusing on the ideas and career of , a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts and one of the greatest landscape architects of our time. ’s influential work as a practitioner, educator and author over the past forty years has helped to guide the future of landscape architecture and shape urban life around the world.

Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology / WEISS/MANFREDI

© Albert Večerka/Esto

Architects: WEISS/MANFREDI
Location: 3205 Walnut Street, University of , , PA 19104, USA
Design Partners : Marion Weiss, FAIA and Michael A. Manfredi, FAIA
Project Manager: Todd Hoehn
Project Architects: Michael Harshman, AIA, Kimberly Nun, AIA, Ina Ko, AIA, and Michael Steiner, AIA, LEED-AP
Area: 78000.0 ft2
Year: 2013
Photographs: Albert Večerka/Esto

More Park, Less Way: Improving Philadelphia’s Parkway

© elPadawan

In this article in the Wall Street Journal, a number of key players discuss the ongoing work to transform ”the most elegant urban boulevard in the US”, Philadelphia‘s Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The parkway has been on a long journey from boulevard to highway, and thanks to a new plan entitled “More Park, Less Way”, it could be on its way back, with a variety of plans to change the Parkway into a vibrant, more densely populated series of spaces with more amenities for local residents. You can read the full article here.

Preservation: Not for Facades Only

Image © G. Widman, via VisitPhilly.com

stirring piece by the  Inquirer Architecture Critic, Inga Saffron, calls for the preservation—both inside and out—of architecture under threat by “warp-speed gentrification.” Saffron uses as her examples two traditionally black, historic event halls, the Royal Theater and the Blue Horizon, that are “now controlled by developers who would gut their innards and insert soulless structures behind the thin veneer of their facades, a parking garage in the case of the Blue Horizon. That would leave the public with the equivalent of a cardboard cutout of the once-glamorous venues, perfect for photo-ops but lacking in architectural flesh and blood.” The article is a spirited call to preserve not just facades, but also the inner life of architecture: what, according to Saffron, makes a building vibrant and preservation-worthy in the first place.

Five Crescent Drive / Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Francis Dzikowski / Esto for , LLP

Architects: Robert A.M. Stern Architects
Location: Crescent Drive, , PA 19112, USA
Area: 208000.0 ft2
Year: 2013
Photographs: Courtesy of Robert A.M. Stern Architects

What Cities Can Do with Vacant Lots

Glenwood Green Acres; © Tony Fischer Photography

The bursting of the housing bubble wreaked havoc on cities across the causing widespread blight in once-thriving community economies.  Foreclosed, abandoned and condemned homes continue to pockmark neighborhoods and communities, adding to the vacant lots of populous but affected cities like .  The Mayor’s Office of Philadelphia approximates that there are nearly 40,000 vacant lots throughout the city of brotherly love, about 74% of which are privately owned, making them virtually inaccessible to rehabilitation.  But the city has a strong drive to amend these conditions.  With organizations like DesignPhiladelphia’s “Not a Vacant Lot” and the city’s Redevelopment Authority, some of this land is being put to good use. 

A “High Line” Makeover for A Former Railroad in Philly?

The unused Reading Railroad, in .

From a park in a forgotten metro station to a human-sized “LEGO” bridge (see our post: The 4 Coolest “High Line” Inspired Projects), the massive success of New York City‘s High Line continues to inspire citizens across the globe to see their city’s forgotten spaces with new eyes – as opportunities for action.

The latest vision comes from a trio of plucky Landscape Architect Grads. Today, from 6-10 at Next American City‘s Storefront for Urban Innovation in Philadelphia, they’ll show what they would do with the unused, over-grown railroad (a.k.a the Reading Railroad, of Monopoly board fame) that at points dips under and peeks over the city.

The grads are hoping that the exhibit, called “Above, Below, Beyond: Futures for a Former Railroad,” will stir up debate and maybe even some action (which is highly likely, seeing as two other groups also have hopes for the spot, the Reading Viaduct Project and VIADUCTgreene). If you’re inspired but aren’t in Philly, you can contribute to their Kickstarter Campaign to help them offset exhibition costs (as of press time, they’re less than $2,000 short of their goal, with 5 days to go).

You can learn more about this project at the Above, Below, Beyond Web Site and Facebook Page

Temple University and UPenn Design Students share what they would do with the Reading Railroad.
View looking North from 12th and Vine on the Reading Railroad.

205 Race Street / Peter Gluck & Partners

© Gluck & Partners

Presented with the chance to make an impact on an urban skyline can be one of the most exciting opportunities for an architect, albeit one of the most stressful.   For, as much as we are driven by the project’s potential prominence, its soon-to-be visibility brings with it heavy criticism and concerns- and, rightly so.

Such is the case with ’ latest project for 205 Race Street.  Situated on the border of the Old City, the 16 story residential building has sparked debate due to its 197’6″ height – a marker that far surpasses the historic district’s height limit of 65′.  Yet, the building’s positioning - immediately adjacent to the Ben Franklin Bridge and PATCO train lines – demands an architectural strategy that can remedy the site’s vastly different edge conditions.

More after the break.

The Drexel University Daskalakis Athletic Center / Sasaki Associates

© Halkin Photography

Architects: Sasaki Associates
Location: , PA,
Design Team: David Dymecki, Pablo Savid-Buteler, Nancy Freedman, Gerry Gutierrez, Sal Canciello, Dan Dwyer, Mette Aamodt, Elke Berger, Mark Delaney
Project Year: 2010
Photographs: Halkin Photography, Robert Benson

The Barnes Foundation / Tod Williams + Billie Tsien

Looking south east at night. The Barnes Foundation . © 2012 Tom Crane

Last year, The Barnes Foundation - Albert Barnes collection of French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern paintings and horticulture – began its move from its original location in Merion, to a new building designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien in Philadelphia.  Close to five years in the making, the “Gallery in a Garden” Barnes Foundation Building officially opened on May 19, 2012. The design was predicated on the arrangement of the galleries within the original building and a desire to invite new programs into the scheme, such as a garden and classrooms.

Continue reading to learn more. 

Temple University, Tyler School of Art, Architecture Department 2012 Spring Lecture Series

Courtesy of , Tyler School of Art, Architecture Department

The 2012 Spring Lecture Series, put on by the architecture department at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art is currently in progress until April 18th. Upcoming lectures include Iain Low, ‘Architecture Week’, in celebration of the new building for the architecture department, featuring Daniel Kelley and Skip Graffam, Timothy McDonald, and will conclude with Pedro Gadanho. For more information on the lectures, including specific dates, times, and locations, please visit here. The lecture poster can be viewed after the break.

PennDesign 2012 Spring Lecture Series

Courtesy of University of School of Design

Just last month, University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design announced their lecture series for Spring 2012. All lectures are held at 6PM in Meyerson Hall and free and open to the public unless otherwise noted with continuing education credits available. The series began on January 17th and concludes on April 28th. More information on the upcoming events after the break.

AD Classics: Esherick House / Louis Kahn

© Ludvík Koutný

An architect celebrated for his breathtaking studies of light and materiality in the creation of memorable architecture, Louis Kahn did not fail to maintain his rigor in the Esherick House of , .

Admired for it’s spatial and luminous qualities, this is the first residence of its kind to convey the grand ideas of Kahn-style architecture. The two story dwelling, which is one of only nine private houses designed by Kahn to come into realization, rests on a lively six acre garden.

More information on the Esherick House after the break.

The Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School / SMP Architects and SRK Architects

© Halkin Photography LLC

Architects: SMP Architects and SRK Architects
Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA
Developer: AP/BSI, a joint venture
Project Team: : Jane Rath, Jennifer Grafton, Scott Ritchie, Keith Simon; : Vincent Rivera, Craig Slater and Jovanny Ramos
Client: School District of Philadelphia
Project Area: 88,500 SF
Project Date: 2010
Photographs: Halkin Photography LLC.