Thursday, February 16, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- February 16th

Big Ben at Franklintown by Alexander Generalis and Tom Miles

17th Street overpass over Interstate 676

The worst depiction of anyone... ever. Pic from
                        I'm sure I'm not the first person that ever told you that this sculpture is a flaming bag of orangutanshit. This one right here is hated far and wide. The worst part is, this is pretty much the most-viewed piece of Philadelphia's public art. If my math is right, 430.7 million cars have passed under this pile of shit on Interstate 676 since it was installed on June 1, 1992. That's a ridiculous number of people that have seen this monument to asstrash. Ridonkulous, in fact.
                        Oh, Franklin Town. That failed experiment of urban renewal from the 70's, complete with fucking moving sidewalks. I once wrote about one of its many empty lots.

Yeah, this all got built. Sike!!
                       Needless to say, it didn't quite work out as planned. In 1992, 21 years after it was proposed, Franklin Town looked even worse than it does now. In order to get the ball rolling on SOMETHING for this dystopian utopia, The Franklin Town Corporation wanted a big-ass piece of public art that could act as a gateway to the neighborhood. The piece would be placed at the edge of the hood, at 17th and Vine, where it straddles I-676. This is funny because the first thing you see in Franklin Town after this gateway are two super-massive empty lots.
                      Since it was being placed on an overpass, massively large amounts of killer bureaucracy was involved. The Federal Highway Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and Philadelphia Streets Department all had to have a hand in this disgrace. Real Estate moguls/artists Tom Miles and Alex Generalis were forced to design a sculpture based on the only thing Franklin Town could ever be known for-- Ben Franklin.
                      Philadelphia loves itself some depictions of early Philaphile Ben Franklin. Literally over 100 depictions of him are viewable on any given day. Throwing another one on top of the pile shouldn't have been that big a deal-- but in this case, it was. The design called for 15,000 pounds of stainless steel sheets that have been cut and painted and arranged to be a silhouette of Franklin with lightning bolts and kites everywhere. Since the bust of Franklin is 30 feet in the air, it would be viewable from 676.
                     In May of 1992, the steel shitstorm was installed bit by bit, work finishing on June the 1st. The "sculpture" was dedicated on June 12, 1992. Almost immediately, the hatred began. Motorists noticed the thing from below, no doubt puking all over their windshields. By August, the Inquirer's architecture critic tore it a new asshole. This disfigurement of Franklin made people start questioning the intelligence of putting depictions of him all over the place.
                    Today, it stands faded and rusty-nailed, still making people question what the fuck they were thinking. Franklin Town is still a piece of shit, but getting a little better...  the new Mormon Temple will be right near the sculpture. With the construction of the temple, maybe its time that a new Franklin Town gateway was created. Get Albert Paley on the phone. He could design an Archway of Kick-ass that matches the one nearby on 18th Street. That'll show 'em.

Its also a depiction of Colonial-era Cousin Itt.


  1. I wish they would just let Ben and Penn rest in peace and PLEASE no more Liberty Bells!

  2. Its like one of those 1% for shit projects, except 100x worse. Tear it down now. This thing is so bad, I think I'd prefer a monument to John Street. And yes Vardis, the city has an unhealthy obsession with BF.