Thursday, April 19, 2012

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- April 19th

First District Plaza

3801 Market Street

                          Ugh, I've already fallen asleep. This pedestrian piece of horseshit manages to ugly-up a corner that already has two gigantic empty lots. Its just so damn boring. What's worse it is that the architect is unknown... it almost seems that nobody wants to own up to designing this crap.
                          This building was first conceived by Bishop Frank C. Cummings of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1980. He had just been on to eight banquets in the same week and noticed that he only saw one black dude working at them. He also noticed that most of the hotels and conference halls he went to were white-owned and run. Cummings thought that there should be a black-owned, black-managed office/conference/banquet/convention space that could help the community. After 9 years of planning and fundraising, his dream came true and the boring-ass building began construction in 1989. 
                         It was named First District Plaza, being that Philadelphia is the home of the A.M.E.'s First District. The African Methodist Episcopal Church was born in Philadelphia through the Free African Society, formed when Richard Allen and Absalom Jones walked out of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church (on 4th street next to the BFB) to protest the church's racial discrimination. Despite that history, the A.M.E.'s headquarters is now in Nashville, Tennessee. Funny, Supermegatect William Strickland went to Nashville too.
                       The building ended up costing $13 million. It was funded by bank loans, a federal block grant, and Self Help, Inc, an A.M.E. corporation. When it opened in April, 1990, people went fucking nuts over it. It was reported that a woman broke down in tears upon walking inside. Bishop Cummings called it the "Miracle of Market Street". Besides offices for the A.M.E. First District, it also boasted a shitload of banquet space, a cafe, and office spaces for various companies, both white- and black-managed.

How it looked when it was new in 1990.
                             So that all sounds great and I'm glad Bishop Cummings was successful in getting this all together, but why did they have to put it all in such a butt-fugly boring pile of shit building? I've seen suburban office parks that look more exciting. Because of this and the sleepy boxes that make up the University Science Center, the Western portion of business-based Market Street has to be one of the more boring stretches of road in the city... and that's if you're driving!!! Imagine having to walk all the way along those blocks! You'd pass out from lack of brain activity by the time you made it!
                         Now that the building has been up for 22 years, maybe its time for a change. What happened to cornices? Put a big-ass cornice on that thing, add like 5 floors, and clad it with some new facade. Then take out that stupid glass-block piece sticking out the front and replace it with a 80-foot statue of Richard Allen giving the finger towards Market Street so that everyone driving by gets the bird flipped at them. The First District of the A.M.E. represents a shitload of people. If each on contributed $5, all those alterations would be possible. Get to it!!


  1. For two years, I biked past the corner of 38th & Market twice a day while commuting to work. I have no conscious memory of this building.

  2. I was in this thing for a wedding reception a few years ago. It's just as ugly on the inside.

    You have to walk down long hallways to get where you're going, with little direction. Like in a bad dream. Inside that greenhouse thingy on the side is an area where people are supposed to stand around with mixed drinks and mingle, but from the inside it looks like the architect thought "I really like those prefab greenhouse things on those tacky '80s Arby's; I think I'll put a really big one here." Just hideous.

    From inside, about the only think I can say I liked is the interior of that rounded thing on the front. It's actually the stairway. At least it has some visual interest, even if in a prison sort of way. Of course, from the outside it looks like a tumor that was surgically implanted instead of removed.