Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- December 27th

Constitution Place (aka The Mall Building)

325 Chestnut Street

This is from a publicity photo of it and it still looks like taint.
                    Now here's a building that NIMBYs didn't work hard enough to stop. This ugly, out-of-place piece of shit was the first major building constructed in the city after World War II. You'd think they'd want to do a good job, but no, we get this pile of dirt.What a waste.
                       This building came about around the same time that the beautiful buildings of the 19th Century commericial district of Philadelphia were being destroyed one by one to make room for the Independence Historical Grass Lot Collection.  Here's the corner the building now stands on as it looked in 1954, one year before construction:

                    Frank Binswanger, developer extraordinaire, was ready to spend $6 million on a brand new office building that would bring the neighborhood surrounding the coming Grass Lot Collection into the 20th Century. The NIMBY's of the time heroically attempted to get it stopped. After all, at this point a shitload of beautiful buildings were getting knocked down and a few more that weren't even part of the park would have to get demolished for this new 13-storey piece of shit.
                   The developer presented rendering after rendering.. at first it was to be a red-brick facaded structure, but later it was decided that this new building of a new age should be glass and aluminum. New Orleans architect Charles Colbert was brought in to design this trash, which was going to be known as the Mall Building, even though it wasn't on Independence Mall nor did it contain a shopping mall. Coincidentally, Colbert had designed many shopping malls in his career. Here's a few of the renders:

I believe this is the earliest version of the glass and aluminum version of the building. It was rejected.
Closer, but not quite there yet.
This is the final design. I think I like the rejected shit better.
                   Construction of this piece of shit finally forced its way through by the end of 1955.. the NIMBYs, who should have won this battle, lost. The building was finished in 1956.

Under confucktion. Parking Lot across the street is areas that were being cleared in preparation for the Grass Lot Collection.
                        Ever since, this pile of crap has stuck out like a sore thumb due to its ugly and unfortunate look. Because its on Independence Park, assloads of out-of-towners are subject to its embarrassing presence. Because Buddakan is one of the retail tenants, even famous people who visit Philadelphia are forced to find out how shitty our architecture can really get. What a pisser.
                        By the early 1990's, this building, though only 40 years old, was starting to fall apart. The offices got down to an 80% vacancy and it seemed like the shitpile's days were numbered. In the late 90's, however, Kaiserman Management Group, the same motherfuckers behind the creation of another prominent butt-fugly building, took over the place and renovated the fuck out of it, causing 100% office/retail occupation and the inevitable survival of a building that could have been demolished by now. Thanks, dick.


  1. I thinks its bad, but not necessarily a disaster. The first level streetscape is at least not in the brutalist style, and is actually bordering on the "OK". The bldg has a Seagrams vibe to it as well. May I suggest 2 other buildings in the same neighborhood that absolutely blow this bldg away in sheer BFUgliness? The Colonial Penn or Fox 29 bldgs on the 300 block of Market. YEESH.

  2. Even THOSE are not as bad as the '70s disasters lining the west side of the Historical Grass Lot Collection between Market and the WHYY building. Utterly beyond redemption, all three of 'em.