Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- September 13th

Philadelphia Beacons by Ray King

All Four Corners of Broad and Washington

Stupid. Picture from philart.net
               THIS is the so-called gateway to the Avenue of the Arts? Those pieces of shit? No wonder that corner has stayed empty lots for so long. These four so-called "light sculptures" might as well be 40-foot piles of donkey turds. The worst part is... it took five years and $522,420 to get these Towers of Turd Cement built! What a disgrace. As it turns out, god-tier levels of dumbassery from multiple city agencies was responsible.
                 It started in 1993, during the planning period for turning South Broad Street into the Avenue of the Arts. A contest was held to determine what pieces of public art would act as a symbol for this brave new world. After reviewing 476 submissions, 11 semi-finalists were chosen. Of those, two finalists made it to the end. One was by California artist Robert Coburn and the other was from Philaphile Ray King. Coburn's A-shaped Bells were chosen to line the Avenue and King's ugly fucking glass-and-stone towers were chosen as the "Gateway".
              The assumption was made that new developments would be happening all the way down to Washington Avenue (HA!) so the work was to be installed at Broad and Washington, one of the city's saddest corners. The "Gateway" would be called Philadelphia Beacons and be a sculpture made of "light"(ugh). That is to say, 41-foot-tall 20-ton pillars with black granite bases, stainless steel rhombuses, and over 1000 squares/triangles of laminated glass. Sort of like if four tornadoes formed over a construction site and a bunch of raw materials ended up squished together into these nasty forms.
             You'd think something like this would get built pretty quickly and we could sit here and lament their stupid choice (I'd hate to see the stuff they rejected!), but NO. Five years of dumbass bullshit preventing this thing from being built until the end of 1999. Ends up these monsters, which are 20 tons each, needed a 40 foot deep hole to sit in. King plotted spots for the holes to be bored, but when the stupid-ass Streets Department showed up they realized that the dig would interfere with pre-exiting utilities on the east side of Broad. They would need to put the eastern holes somewhere else.
             Instead of just moving the holes over to a reasonable location, they threw the hole over to a spot right next to a ADA curb cut at the corner of the sidewalk. King freaked out because he thought that he could get sued if someone was injured because of his ugly-ass sculpture's proximity to the ramp. The city and the Streets Department were assholes about it. They refused to move the curb cut and refused to release him from all fault if someone sued. They also refused to dig the holes somewhere else.

You can see in this picture how its right on the curb cut.
                 On top of all that, the city wanted the bases to be out of bad-ass Italian black marble instead of cement, but didn't want to pay for it. King quoted them a price and they supplied only about 1/3 of it. The shit got suspended and plywood boxes ended up sitting at the corner for years, causing Broad and Washington into an even bigger eyesore. King and the city went back and forth until the city started to threaten him with a suit in January 1999 for not getting started, even though they were the ones that caused him not to start. Fuckers.
                The city finally caved in July 1999 and construction began. The glorified ass-poles were unveiled on December 24, 1999 and went on to disappoint everyone who has seen them since. Gateway to the Avenue of the Arts? More like Gateway To Two Shamefully Gigantic Empty Lots and a Bunch of Fast-food Places/Gas Stations. It sucks.


  1. I liked them when I passed by on my South Broad street hike this summer. They are sort of cool looking and people actually use the benches that are built into them, so they have function as well as form.

    Are they worth a 1/2 mil? Well probably not.

  2. How wonderful!

    I never knew that Philanderphia was filled with colored cocksicles! Imagine my delightful surprise when I read your wonderfully entertaining account of AFSCME (Another Fucking Stupid Cunt Making Excuses) employees braving the killing fields in order to "lay some (vertical) pipe".

    Now, if I could just get a greasy Philly Cheese Steak Sammich between the two gigantic shit storm sicles, I would be in second (city) heaven.

    Well, I'll be holding my baited breath for the next Millennial Catastrophe to smash into those Vulgar Pillars, decimating the corner, and ultimately, to start the cleansing process of the earth...

    Yours, in artistic license,

    Plastic Poon :)